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For certain Portions of the Plot the Author is indebted to an Italian Work. 


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Dramatis ^mom. 

Thecla, Countess von Thurenau. 

Olivia, Princess of Novgorod (her Sister). 

Duchess of Valence. 

Madame de Pierrefitte. 

Frederick the Second of Prussia. 

Monsieur de Voltaire. 

Count Julian of Toledo. 

Prince of Novgorod. 

Baron Erfurt. 


De, Martin. 



Tableau I. — Drawing-room in Thecla's castle. Doors R. and L. 
In c. in flat an arch, with a thin curtain doivn, opening down 
the centre. 

Thecla and Laroque. She seated by a table, he standing over 
her, a paper in his hand. 

Thecla. Thank you, good Laroque. Your ode is graceful, 
and, as it should be, eminently flattering. You are a born poet. 

Laroque. And you, Countess, a born queen, fit sovereign for 
His Gracious Majesty King Frederick's intellectual Court. As 
for the poor ode, madam, you were ever too indulgent to my 
humble worth. 

Thec. Take care ! that is another of the thousand falsehoods 
which you propound daily for my benefit. I am not indulgent ; 
never was ; and never intend to be. My love of frankness, my 
worship of Truth at any price, -reaches possibly the verge of mad- 
ness. It is a folly which in this lying world whereon we feebly 
strive will doubtless meet with proper punishment, for, after all, 
society has a right to be deceived. Yet I am bold enough to 
cling to the opinions formed on my own theories. Do I ever 
blame the world for the slime which now and then it seeks to 
cast at me 1 No, my heart is brave ; I meet its slanders with 

Lar. Slander to you, the beautiful widow 1 So witty, rich, 
adored? Chosen to sit on an ideal throne; ruling a kingdom 
whose chief wealth is intellect. 

Thec. All the more cause for slander, friend Laroque, where 
coins of wit are the chief currency. The world accepts idols on 
the sole condition of breaking them at will, and I for one see no 
cause for blame. The world and I are excellent friends, jogging 
quietly side by side together, wreathing one another's locks with 
drooping blossoms day by day, and waving the vase of incense 
in the air, the more effectually to blind each other. By the way, 
that epigram you turned on me last night was really vastly 
clever, for it sent a smile round all the lips at Court. 


Lar. I turn an epigram at your expense. Oh, Countess, 
believe me ! 

Thec. Come, come, Laroque. Down on your knees and con- 
fess at once. Admit that the very paper in your hand in which 
I am likened to Juno and Venus and Minerva, all in one, will, 
ere yonder sun be set, have been applied to every swan-like neck 
and marble brow in town ! 

Lar. I will admit no such thing. I solemnly protest that in 
your presence I could not flatter even if I would. 

Thec (ivith a sigh of satisfaction). Thank you. A new kind 
of compliment, and most refreshing. While I think of it, you 
have never told me the price of that delectable composition. 
One must pay for admittance to Olympus. What does it cost 
to stand in Juno's car ? What does Venus ask 1 {declaiming, 
pompously). "To veil her eyes with tawny hair in shame?" Ha ! 
Ha ! I have it. The place is vacant, and you would fain shade 
your noble brow under the Poet Laureate's crown. Is it not so 1 

Lab. Countess, you are all goodness ! 

Thec. Well. His Majesty will be here to-day — or rather 
Count Hecksen — for our monarch is not above masquerade, and 
wishes his incognito to be respected. I will speak a word for 
you — no thanks. And now — Presto ! change. Drop the poet 
and resume the secretary, the more useful if not the less orna- 
mental of the two. What letters have we here to-day 1 

Lar. Here is one from the great philosopher, the Abbe" des 

Thec. Read. 

Lar. " Divine Glicera. The gout and my creditors combined 
keep me to my room. Being very miserable, I would banish 
care, and therefore write to you " 

Thec. No more nonsense. Sends he no news 1 

Lar. A long postscript. 

Thec. Read it. 

Lar. "You are fond of oddities. Seek out and study 
one but recently arrived at Frederick's Court. A gentleman, 
half poet, half philosopher, attached to the Spanish Embassy ; 
a woman-hater, who denies the existence of the butterfly god, 
believes in all that we deny, and disbelieves our common articles 
of faith, such, for example, my queen, as your irresistible powers 
to charm. The bear is named Count Julian of Toledo. Muzzle 
him. Read his grand tragedy called ' Sappho.' I have seen 
worse. I can bear my gout no more. Adieu." 

Thec. Invite him here at once (ivrites). Nay, take this note 
with your own hand. What else 1 

Lar. A letter from Garrick. 

Thec. (snatching it). From Garrick ! Give it to me quickly 


(reads). " You ask news of me. I can but repeat what I said 
in London, when we stood together on the dismantled stage, 
amid the ruins of Hamlet's cardboard palace. Each night as 
I remove the paint from my face I scrutinize the lines which 
death s finger is slowly but surely weaving there, and muse upon 
my fate. There is yet time. If I so willed it, I could yet 
erase those awful prints. But 'twixt life and art I have made 
my choice, and shall, like Moliere, die an actor on the boards." 
(She remains buried in thought.) Poor Garrick ! His life of 
shadows is perhaps the true life after all ! Any more letters ] 

Lar. One from the Duke of Liera. 

Thec. To the flames. 

Lar. Without reading it ? 

Thec. I know what it contains. 

Lar. From Count Heilbach. 

Thec. To the flames. That makes his twenty-third. 

Lar. Verses — verses — verses. Enough to paper a room. 

Thec. To the flames. 

Lar. A petition from a poor family. That to the flames, too 1 

Thec. No. Hold ! Give it to me. Write, — tl Good for 
700 florins, payable annually, on presentation of this order." 

Lar. Another note — a strange one this. Only one word — a 
name — Voltaire. 

Thec. (rising suddenly). Voltaire at Berlin ! So suddenly, 
without so much as a message ! 

[Page announces at door, " M. de Voltaire." 

Thec. Admit him at once. Don't go, Laroque. 

[Laroqtje sits at table. 
Enter Voltaire. 
(Talcing both Voltaire's hands in hers). Now this is kind ! 
When did you arrive, and why ? * 

Vol. Thecla, my child, I arrived but yesterday. Mahomet 
turned me out of France. 

Thec. How? 

Vol. Not the man, the work penned by your humble servant. 
It is quite surprising what a hubbub was raised by those few 
poor halting lines. I laughed awhile, and then I withdrew 
Mahomet. He and I, Atheist and Mussulman, travelled 
trgether in a royal coach. A mustachioed grenadier galloped 
at either door. On the road, I converted one gentleman to my 
peculiar code of thought, and filled the other's skin with wine — 
ruined them both for life, poor men. No matter. Here I am, 
safe and sound, and so is Mahomet. Once a poet, always a phi- 
losopher, I have come to try my hand at a new trade. Behold 
in me an ambassador, clad in the panoply of a mysterious mission. 
* The two must stand all through this scene. 


Thec. You! 

Vol. Yes. Everybody is an ambassador now-a-days. 

Thec. From whom 1 

Vol. I play, you see, a double part ; one burlesque, the other 
sentimental — ambassador and outlaw. I have come from myself, 
to induce Frederick to take up arms in my behalf. I began by 
imploring him to do nothing of the kind — the best way of gain- 
ing my point, although he 's not a woman. 

Thec. And what said the king ? 

Vol. As usual,' a multitude of sonorous words, very excellent 
in themselves, but meaningless as strung by him. Heigho ! I 
am already weary of the many-sided character I am called upon 
to play. As a literary man, I have been pelted with eulogistic 
verses by every fool in Prussia who can read and write, all of 
whom unite to wave in 'my face the many-coloured rag which 
men call glory. I assured them earnestly that I am a great man, 
and they believed it. As a philosopher, I had gravely to receive 
a stupendous deputation of elderly orang outangs, who appear 
to consider philosophy incompatible with common-sense. As an 
outlaw, I 'm pursued by all the ragamuffins in the town, who vie 
with one another which shall first dip into my purse. And so, 
like a worried animal, I come, harassed and panting, to you, 
imploring only rest, and for a brief space to be forgotten. May 
I crave that, as you are an angel — happily minus the fiery sword 
— you will open to me the gates of your earthly paradise ? 

Thec. A poor paradise, Voltaire; for in it is but a weak sem- 
blance of the Tree of Life, without its twin sister, the Tree of 
Happiness. ' A paltry Eden, wherein all glitters with the tinsel 
of the stage. 

Vol. My enthusiastic Thecla ! You were not wont to speak 
thus. A change seems 

Thec. Dear friend, are we not all for ever changing, and does 
not each revolving year whisper its own counsel ere it vanishes ? 
I cannot but feel that it is a terrible fate to stand over the 
abyss of one's illusions, seeking to trace something tangible in 
its uncertain depths. 

Vol. Do its chasms yawn less awfully than the bitter gulf of 
doubt over which it is my lot to hover ? Depend upon it, grand- 
father Adam was wrong, whose chief legacy was a feverish desire 
for search into hidden things. Ignorance is true happiness ; one 
little dose of opium, and a long sound sleep, without a waking. 

Thec. If you choose opium, I have my philtre, too. I have 
distilled into a golden draught every sparkling pleasure which 
our frivolous, feeble, sceptical age affords, and quaff it daily, till 
rendered sick and dizzy by satiety. 

Vol. Double the dose. 


Thec. A lingering death. 

Vol. Then fall in love. 

Thec. No ; anything but that. 

Vol. Like medicine, it may be unpleasant to the taste, but is 
very suitable as a tonic in certain cases. I said so, only yester- 
day, to that eccentric person, Count Julian of Toledo. Do you 
know him 1 

Thec. No. 

Vol. A thousand pities ! Quite a delightful young man, 
pleasantly different from most, who are measured by the yard, 
and cut from a common piece. 

Thec. I admire his poetry, especially his ' Sappho,' and have 
heard much of him. 

Vol. Do you know, Thecla, that, by some strange chance, the 
last shreds of my faith seem to hang round your glorious 
presence. I believe you capable of prodigies. Sometimes I 
almost think that, by a touch, you might restore the sick to 

Thec. Then you believe in miracles 1 

Vol. Who shall say 1 Now here 's a miracle I would propose 
to you. Count Julian 

Thec. That name again ! How many times am I to hear of 
him this day 1 

Vol. This Galahad— this paragon prince of virtue — this 
loather of the sex — cause him to fall in love with you, and think 
of the added laurel to your crown. 

Thec. A strange suggestion. To what end 1 

Vol. Merely as a study in psychology. I design to write a 
comedy on love, and would sound to the bottom with a surgeon's 
probe. But I see you shrink. The difficulties are doubtless great. 

Thec. I said not so. 

Vol. Now, I will bet an aigrette of diamonds that you don't 

Thec. And I accept the challenge. I am to recite to-night 
before the Court. He will be there. You say that he 's romantic. 
He shall first see me in my character of muse. I will select the 
most impassioned verses from his ' Sappho,' and then 

Vol. Well planned. A bargain, mind. An enamelled snuff- 
box against a diamond aigrette. 

[Page announces at door, " The carriage of Her High- 
ness the Princess of Novgorod." 

Thec. My sister arrived from Eussia after two years of 
absence. A surprise indeed ! 

Vol. (sniffing). I might have divined her advent from the 
sickly odour of virtue which suddenly pervades the room. 

Thec. Voltaire, your ribaldry has been better \ ' 


Vol. Forgive me, but I cannot pardon her propriety. There 
is something aggressive in her manner of imposing virtue — as 
your Prussian king imposes peace — by force of arms. 

Thec. Her name, which she values at so high a price, to be 
bandied thus ! A bitter lesson for thee, proud Olivia. 

Vol. Hark ! The dragon rattles her scales, and juts forth her 
fierce tongue upon the stairs. Quick, Monsieur Laroque, we 
are de trop. I'm off. You will have half-a-hundred virtuous 
secrets to interchange.* Monsieur Laroque, I pray you, let us 
be discreet. 

Thec. Thanks, thanks, Voltaire. 

Vol. An excellent heart. Provided, of course, that hearts 
exist. [Exit Voltaire and Laroque. 

Enter Olivia in travelling dress, ushered by page, who exits. 

Thec. Olivia — sister ! 

Oliv. My Thecla. 

Thec. At length we meet after two long years. How beautiful 
you have become. How bright your face. Then the Prussian 
grandee has made you really happy 1 

Oliv. Is that so strange? The name of the Prince, my 
husband, is universally esteemed. Thank Heaven, he stands too 
high ever to be touched by calumny. Believe the experience of 
my maturer years ; reverence freely tendered by the world is a 
great comfort. 

Thec. Comfort ! Have the happy then need of being 
sustained 1 You prate of esteem, of universal respect. Should 
there be no nearer tie 1 

Oliv. I am truly proud to bear the honoured name of 

Thec. Icicles set in words. Do you love him — say — do you 
love your husband 1 

Oliv. I esteem him much. 

Thec. Alas ! no more. 

Oliv. How could I do more 1 You know that my story is the 
same as yours ; the story of most German ladies of our rank and 
fortune. The old sad story that is ever new. Married both to 
men who knew us not nor cared to know us, what more had we 
a right to ask 1 The love of which the poets sing is but the 
phantasm of a dream ; a garland for prattling children to drape 
themselves withal. Our years have whispered wisdom to our 
hearts, have taught us that the world is the true god to worship 
— that before that brazen throne 

* It is necessary for Laroque to remain on during the foregoing scene, 
though mute. His presence will dispel the feeling of Ute-a-tete too promi- 
nent through the act. 


Thec. Sister, drop the mask. The world ! What invisible 
Juggernaut is this? What right has the world to count the 
beatings of my pulse 1 I act according to the generous dictates 
of my heart, and can despise the verdict of the world ! 

Oliv. (in an undertone). And how I fear it, the terrible 
colossal phantom, with an overwhelming exaggerated fear ! 
Call it weakness, nightmare, if you will. You are a widow, 
free, young, beautiful, and may, perhaps, despise, but I 
dare not follow in your steps. The human soul has need 
of love, and I feel sometimes as though I might yet love, 
but then between me and the object of my choice rises the 
cold ghost, and my blood flows back in frozen torrents on my 

Thec. Poor Olivia ! 

Oliv. As your breath of life is incense and applause, so do I 
live in calm respect. When I go abroad, I feel that my every 
glance is weighed, my every impulse sifted, and each whispered 
word makes me to blanch and tremble. 

Thec. Beware, sister, of the path of self. It is as slippery as 
your fetish is insatiable. To-day you will toss your inclinations 
on its altar; to-morrow, if need be, the friendships of your 
youth. You will do it, for once started you may not recoil. 
You will cast all upon the blazing pile, at first with terror, then 
with indifference, at last with a wild joy bred by revenge for all 
that you have suffered from the seeming sacrifice. And when 
you shall stand in the solitude "of death both God and altar shall 
alike melt away, leaving you alone amid your ruins ; and the first 
voice raised to denounce and to upbraid you will be the voice of 
the idol fashioned by your hands. 

Oliv. Peace, for pity's sake. You yourself have said it. 
Once on the incline, I must move onward, come what may. 

Thec. You are right, and I am but a fool. Who am I that 
I should cloud your coming with boding words 1 Now you are 
mine, beloved Olivia, and for a long time. Is it not so ? 

Oliv. (embarrassed). No. 

Thec. At least for several weeks. 

Oliv. Indeed no. My husband's occupations 

Thec. (bitterly). Enough. Above all let us honour Truth. 
You fear what idle tongues clack forth of me. You are ashamed 
of me. Of me ! 

Oliv. Nay, sister 

Thec. Go your way, Olivia, on your solitary road. I pity 

Oliv. Yes, pity me ; for alas, indeed, I need it. I, cold and 
calculating as I seem to you, am most unhappy. My heart is 
warped through need of sympathy. 


Thec. Where your heart speaks, listen to its words. A true 
heart is an unerring guide through the tangled maze of life. 

Oliv. {desperately). Would you advise me thus ? On your 
head be it then. You shall know what no living soul should 
guess. Calm as I seem, I love, Thecla, with all the wild torrent 
of passions long pent up; yet reason and judgment bid me 
suffocate my heart. 

Thec. Wherefore] 

Oliv. Because the man who loved me and offered me his love, 
though high in rank, was neglected and disgraced, and I dreaded 
the sarcastic comments of the world. Because he who is now a 
hero was then a princelet flying from his crown, prisoned by an 
angry sire. I deemed him doomed to an ignoble fate, and feared 
to accept his proffered hand. Had I but known that Frederick 
was to become the " Great ! " 

Thec. Hush ! for Heaven's sake. Palace walls have ears, and 
Frederick's wrath once roused is not lightly to be lulled to 
rest. What selfish repining 's this 1 Your path is more beset 
with danger than I thought. You must leave Berlin without so 
much as seeing the king. You came here purposely in hopes of 
meeting him. Is it so ? For shame! I read it in your downcast 

Oliv. (wildly). I cannot — no ! I cannot. I will see him once 
again if only to explain. 

Thec. (sternly). Olivia, you forget yourself. 

Oliv. (spitefully). So this is your boasted spurning of the world. 

Thec. Sister, there is something higher than the world's 
esteem — respect for self. Come, your carriage is below. There 
is no time to lose, for he will presently be here. Nay, look not 
at me thus. 

Enter Servant. 

Serv. The Count of Toledo waits below. 

Thec. 'Tis well. [Exit Servant. 

Come — you shall come — away. [Exeunt. 

Enter Julian, with a letter in his hand. 

Jul. No one ! Yet Laroque bade me lose no time, but 
prostrate myself at once before the intellectual queen. I 
thought to find a brilliant gathering. Are the adorers of the 
dread goddess vanished into air 1 ? So I am to meet the irresistible 
muse at last. The old tricks, I suppose ; the well-worn attrac- 
tions, with pompous mysterious noddings of the head, designed 
to mask the emptiness within. Heigho ! How sick to death am 
I of clever women, for ever juggling their wares to drum and 
trumpet like cheap-jacks at a fair. There 's something fantastic 
about this castle too. (Sits.) And this note, so daintily worded, 


so gracefully expressed. Now I 'm prepared to swear that twenty- 
just such, notes have already been despatched this day. Happy 
they who can see truth in woman's guile. A book, — my Sappho ! 
with pencilled thoughts upon the margin. What's this? 
" Sappho was right ! In this base world the only end for those 
who really love is suicide. It is more difficult to know how to 
love than how to hate, — yet each one says he loves or hates. 
Fools ! He to whom the mystery is locked yet feigns to have the 
key!" This earth- born. goddess must be a singular woman. 

[Behind curtain, in c. of flat, low and plaintive music, 
played on harps, something dreamy and sad, — say 
one of the "Songs without Words," — the same 
music to recur at stated intervals. After a few bars 
Thecla is heard to declaim, through the music, 
behind the drapery, which is to be drawn aside by 
unseen hands as she speaks the last lines. It woidd 
be xoell to have, the space behind, the archway raised 
two steps, so as to give her the appearance of a 
statue when the curtain is drawn aside. Her pose 
and draperies should be very carefidly studied. 
Thecla declaims. 
" Poor's the mute heart with speech never blest ; 
Poor is the blossom uncrowned with perfume. 
I glide through the world, my love unconfessed ; 
Like a lamp on an altar unknown, I consume. 

Jul. Strange sentiments "these for a successful woman ! 
None shall e'er guess the deep passion I cherish, 
Love prisoned and numbed in a winter supreme, 
(The lightnings of Heaven are born but to perish). 
In the halls of the grave we shall slumber and dream. 

Jul. Is it a heart that bursts its prison bars, or only an echo 
which murmurs mockingly 1 

Thrice hallowed the ashes that are heavenwards lifted ; 
Thrice blessed the holocaust kindled above. 
We spurn the dumb flower with scent never gifted, 
As we grieve for the heart never opened to love." 

[She pauses, and looks triumphantly at him before 
coming down the steps, — his back turned to her, 
sitting on an ottoman or sofa. 
Jul. Ah ! She is here ! How weirdly beautiful ! Madam, 
you sent for me, and I came forthwith. 

Thec. A thousand apologies, sir. Having to recite before the 
Court to-night, I am forced to snatch rehearsal hours when I may. 
I was repeating a few verses that answer to my thoughts. 


Jul. And which I confess have waked in me chords long silent. 

Thec. You have the reputation, Count, of being particularly 
severe upon us poor women, and yet I find you disposed to be 
indulgent ; or are you, after all, a courtier like the rest t 

Jul. Then, are those verses yours 1 

Thec. Strangely inharmonious as they are, I am forced to 
confess that they are mine. 

Jul. Yours ! 

Thec. You seem vastly surprised ! Your astonishment is 
scarcely galant ! 

Jul. Pardon me. I expected to find upon your young lips 
music of quite another character — more rhythmical, more beauti- 
ful, perhaps. The passion of these verses seems to rouse deep 
within my breast some vanished memory. (Suddenly changing 
his manner.) But really I am making myself quite ridiculous. 

Thec. (musingly). Music of another character ! Then much 
evil has been said to you of me. 

Jul. No, Countess ; not so. You were described to me as a 
splendid deity, the fascination of whose smile floods the dark 
recesses of men's souls with light. I was told that you are 
the muse of dreams— of golden, hazy, evanescent dreams ; that 
around the sorceress floats an intoxicating atmosphere, the scent 
of which means death. You believe in love, they say; but 
your love is the laughing child of the arrow and the bow, who 
knows not tears. Your life is a life of feasting, over which 
oblivion is to cast an eternal veil. 

Thec. For a portrait drawn at second-hand, it is not unlike. 
Let us commune of other things. My invitation to you appeared 
doubtless strange, but all I do is strange. Moreover, you are 
said to fly from us women as from a pestilence, which is not 
flattering ; and we, haughty, revengeful dames, glory in bringing 
a foe as suppliant to our feet. Sir knight, you are betrayed ! 
You came here as a guest, I detain you as a prisoner, fair booty 
of my sword and spear ! 

Jul. Never had prisoner so fair a gaoler. Yet beware ; men 
were born to be ungrateful, and I may escape. 

Thec. We amazons know well how to guard our prey. 

Jul. Indeed ! If I mistake not, your armoury holds none 
but flowery chains. Speedily woven, as lightly snapped in 
twain. How long, fair tyrant, is my durance to continue ? 

Thec. Till we learn to know each other better. Most men's 
souls are but shallow streams, to be sounded by a glance ; but 
the soul of woman lies deeper than a well. Now come. Let us 
throw bantering aside, let us be straightforward and open one to 
the other. What do you think of me 1 

Jul. Truly and frankly ? 


Thec. Truly and most frankly. Yet stay. I can tell you 
beforehand what you think. You take me for a handsome, 
commonplace woman, without brains, a dreadfully good diges- 
tion, and an everlasting grin to show off the beauty of her 
teeth. If you believe all that the tattlers have to say of me, 
I will throw open the prison doors at once. Better, then, that we 
part almost ere we 've met. (.4 brief silence.) Do you elect to 
go or stay 1 

Jul. I stay. 

Thec. Then speak freely. 

Jul. I believe you to be a woman who, but for circumstances, 
might have soared into an angel ; but who, stricken down by 
doubt, has cast away her wings and fallen prone to earth. I 
believe you might have been some man's highest treasure, just 
as your bright laugh even now spreads happiness where'er you 
go. I take you for a woman who has something to forget — a 
fault perhaps — perhaps a disappointed hope ; who firmly clasps 
her eyes with her own hands, nor dares to look around. 

Thec. Thanks. Others see in me only a frivolous Sultana, a 
Fata Morgana with a heart of stone. Far from divining that I 
too was born to suffer, they would wring a smile from me even 
in the hour of my death. As the world could not give me what 
I sought, I accepted what it gave. I resolved at any price to 
reign, and, behold ! I am but a poor play queen, spurning the 
fools who know not stage dross from gold. 

Jul. And have you never loved 1 

Thec. No. Love as understood- by those about us is but a 
mean welding of base subterfuge, of joyless joys, of fever 
without delirium. As I understand it, it may be a madness, 
but a sublime madness, which blots out the past, devours the 
present, annihilates the future. Who would have courage to 
love like this 1 

Jul. Are there, then, on earth, think you, no souls as generous 
as yours ? 

Thec. No doubt there are ; but he who would find them must 
wade through such a slough of murky selfishness and egotism 
as well-nigh to sicken him into a . renunciation of his race. I 
have renounced mine, have drowned it in the bowl of pleasure — 
have slain it outright. 

Jul. Then I rightly solved your riddle 1 

Thec. Be not too sure of that. You and I are lightly dis- 
cussing love, as we might discuss the war, the last mode, the last 
new tragedy. By-the-by, I have read your ' Sappho,' and like 
it much ; but I hate Alceon, your hero. With the mole-like 
blindness of his sex, he would make of woman either a slave or 
toy ; would calculate to a nicety each heaving of her breast. 


But what matter, after all? Would not her portion still be 
the balls and banquets, the rose wreaths and wax-lit chan- 
deliers ? What more, forsooth, should a well-brought-up damsel 

Jul. Strange ! In you there are two women. Which is the 
mask, and which the real face 1 

Thec. (gaily). Guess ! I leave you now to ponder over this 
new riddle. Prisoner on parole, you have our gracious per- 
mission to wander in the park, where you may find a friend or 
two perhaps, empty-headed courtiers most of them, and one 
true man of genius, the great Voltaire. Good-bye. (Archly.) 
Meditate deeply over the gems of our discourse, or (going off in 
a peal of laughter) go and play skittles in the grounds. [Exit. 

Jul. She leaves me thus ! What a fascination in her in- 
spired look ! Has she been merely toying with me, or has her 
haughty soul but hidden away this page from eyes too blind to 
read 1 But why, then, have revealed herself to me 1 A stranger, 
come to-day and gone to-morrow. Is this statue of marble or 
of clay 1 

Laroque and Baron Erfurt without. 

Lar. I tell you, Baron, I know all about it. Who should be 
better informed than I ? 

Jul. Here come the popinjays who dance and flap their 
painted wings in the sunlight of her eyes. Why waste her 
charms on them — a daily, hourly, profanation. 

[Is going out, but stops. 

Enter Laroque and Erfurt by the opposite door. 

Erf. Then, according to you, our star-crowned muse 1 

Lar. One moment. Let us not misunderstand one another. 
I but chronicle a forgotten fact — a pearl dropped from history. 
" Once on a time, in a mighty city, rendered illustrious by heroes 
of the brain, there was a great lady and also an envoy from a 
foreign court." (Julian draws himself %ip and listens near the 
door.) "The envoy was an erratic youth, one of those overblown 
enthusiasts who always have a proverb pat upon their lips; who 
build of woman's virtue castles in the air, only to hurl stones 
of doubt at them, and erect ideal fortresses of love, glorious 
because they know naught of the reality." 

Erf. 'Twere hard not to recognize the portrait. 

Lar. " The ingenuous diplomat wandered over the surface of 
the earth, seeking his ideal like some hero of a fairy tale." 

Jul. They speak of me ! 

Lar. "The great lady was passing fair. She had, moreover, 
registered a bet to conquer the invincible." 

Jul. (aside). A bet J [Throws down his hat on chair. 


Erf. A bet ! 

Lar. I repeat, a bet — who should be so well informed as 1 1 — 
" with a certain celebrated poet and philosopher, who on his side 
swore, under certain circumstances, to create on the subject a 
brand new comedy." 

Erf. Voltaire ! 

Lar. Hush ! In diplomatic circles names are guessed, but 
never spoken. 

Jul. (aside). And so like all the rest she's perjured, false, and 
double-faced ! Her sweet ways are base deceit and artifice. 

Erf. And the result 1 

Lar. " The envoy knelt at the great lady's feet, communed 
alone with her, and then " 

Erf. Well, and then 1 

Lar. Alas ! the rest is mystery ! 

Jul. (advancing calmly). I may possibly fill the gap in your 

ERF.'} Y ° Ullere! 

Jul. The envoy (as you will that such shall be his title) came 
— came and saw the fair one, fair as dreams of youth. From her 
lips fell words like balm upon long festering wounds, and for a 
brief moment he thought he had found the masterpiece of 
Heaven's handiwork — the spotless beaming one — the beautiful. 
And then the dream vanished as it came. The harp was there, 
but stilled, alas ! Its keys were rusted, its chords were snapped. 
Finally, the bet is lost, and the new comedy will never see the light. 

Erf. And the envoy 1 

Jul. (taking tip his hat, ivhich he had thrown down when he 
advanced). Resolved to go. 

Erf. And he did well ! 

Jul. Who knows? Yes, he went away, blithe and merry- 
hearted ; for had he not amused a great lady, two courtly butter- 
flies, and a world-renowned philosopher 1 ? — more than many a 
professed jester could ever hope to do. 

Lar. {slowly). But I 'm not so sure that I think 

Jul. And who in Heaven's name recks what you think? 
(Coldly). But ere he leaves the scene he will place this epitaph 
over the wan ashes of his trustfulness : " He found a false idol 
girt with lying worshippers ; the first he pitied, the second he 

Erf. Have a care, young sir ! The jest is broad, and, to say 
the least, ill-timed. 

Jul. Is this a menace from the Lord of Erfurt 1 A duel ! 
My Lord, for shame. Nay, put up your sword. Reserve its light- 
nings for a nobler purpose. We two are honest men, and honest 


hearts are now-a-days too rare for casual spitting on an idle 

Lar. Well said ! Let my winter cool your April blood ! Best 
leave at once ! and yet you cannot without first seeing the King. 
He will have come ere this. He 

" Who by streaming locks 
Holds victory enchained ; 
Who, 'mongst primaeval rocks, 
Re-echoed by battle shocks, 
Glory on glory gained." 
Verses of mine, penned in his honour. Ahem ! Neat. The 
occasion is propitious. 

Jul. Frederick here, say you ? How 1 

Lar. You must know that the King is fond of his incognito. 
His title of Count Hecksen, under which cognomen he seeks out 
his lieges, is a species of moral toga in which he wraps himself 

Erf. {laughing). When it pleases him to play Haroun-al- 
Raschid. Ah ! apropos, great poet, your parable 's deciphered, 
your impenetrable mystery unveiled, Ariadne is discovered. 

Lar. Gentlemen ! gentlemen ! Pray don't compromise me. 
A Court rhymster never mentions names. My head, I do declare, 
feels quite loose upon my shoulders. 

Jul. Of what Ariadne would you speak 1 ? 

Lar. I pray you, Baron ! 

Erf. Of the beauteous nymph, sung by his immortal verse, 
whose lord has fled into a better sphere, and who has known how 
to console her widowhood with a wandering love. 

Jul. (smiling). And so Bacchus is 1 

Erf. (nodding). Ye — es. 

Jul. And Ariadne ? 

Erf. Of course our heaven-inspired Countess. 

Jul. She ! It is a lie ! 

Erf. Sir ! 

Jul. A lie, I say ! — worse, a calumny black as hell, born of 
envy or revenge ! 

Erf. Know you well this fair one, whose colours you seem so 
anxious to fix upon your helm ] 

Jul. Enough if needful to sustain my words. 

Erf. But I tell you he is here now, comes here almost daily 
under the shallow pretence of seeking her political advice. 

Jul. Is this true, Monsieur Laroque 1 

Lar. Yes ! Though why he comes it is not for us to say — 
" He who by streaming locks holds victory enchained ! " 

Jul. Lost, alas ! perchance she may be, but a royal favourite 
never ! Which of you dare to say the word 1 


Erf. (exasperated). I! This fellow is unbearable ! 

Jcl. {menacingly). I see, my Lord, that five yards of grass 
may yet be our lot ! 

Erf. When you please, sir ! But here comes the King, — see 
how she hangs upon his arm ! 

Enter Frederick and Thecla, arm in arm, passing round the 
front of the stage, from one door to the other, during their 

Fred. And so you think war would be rash, against our 
cousin of France ] Perhaps you 're right, fair prophetess, as you 
generally are ; but we will hear our other staunch adviser on the 
subject, our great Voltaire. I came to crave half an hour of 
your hospitality, to blot from my troubled brain awhile the 
tawdry glitter of statecraft ; but Time, regardless of the wish of 
kings, moves on, and I must take my leave. Your castle, 
Countess, might be the stronghold of Armida herself. 

Thec. Alas, sire, I fear the enchantress is wanting 

Fred. What sybil than yourself more fitted to give laws ? 

Thec. Oh, that I were indeed gifted with the mystic eye of 
dreams ! To fathom 

Fred. What? 

Thec. That which you keep so jealously concealed. 

Fred. In policy 1 

Thec. No — in love. Confess, sire, that you came here to- 
day to see a lady 1 

Fred. Of course I did. Who loves me not, the fickle fair 

Thec. Who loves you but too well. 

Fred, (looking at her). Can it be % Why, then, her constant 
coldness ? 

Erf. (to Julian). Did I not tell you 1 Have you any doubt 1 
See how they dally with each other's hands. 

Thec. But tho' she loved you well, she forgot not her dignity 
or yours ; and doubting her own strength, sought security in 

Fred. Who loves me well, you say 1 

Thec. Better even than I. 

Fred. Of what lady would you speak ! 

Thec. I know all, sire. My sister was here but now, and 
has confessed. 

Fred. Olivia of Novgorod at Berlin ! No more. Stir not 
the leaves now shrivelled and decayed — crumbling rapidly to 
dust. Your sister, tho' once she plighted troth with me, sub- 
mitted to union with another, because then I was a fugitive. 

Thec. (sighing). Perchance 'tis better thus. 


Feed. Tell her from me that she has naught to fear. This 
heart, that once was fire, shall now be steel to her. Nay ! Tell 
her nothing. Enough of this. The sun is low, and I am waited 
for at Sans Souci. Gentlemen, good evening. Ah, Count 
Julian, poet and ambassador! You in a lady's castle 1 ? Fie! 
Where have you stowed your principles 1 To-morrow night the 
King holds Court, and will expect you all. Muse, warm me this 
statue — convert this Puritan — (sees Julian glaring at him, then, 
with a laugh) — Jealous of me, i' faith ! The work then 's half 

Thec. I doubt it, sire. 

Feed. Adieu, Countess, I kiss your hands. Tell Voltaire I 
expect my revenge for beating me at chess last night. Gentle- 
men, may I count upon your company 1 

[Exit with Laroque and Erfurt, conducted 
to the door by Thecla. 

Jul. (falling on a chair, and hiding his face in his hands). 
Then it was all true ! 

Thec. (approaching him). How chilly ! Stern as the tomb, 
as cold and silent. Well, Count, and what think you of our 
excellent Prussians ? 

Jul. Nothing ! 

Thec. A presumptuous reply. 

Jul. I know them not. 

Thec. Then study them. 

Jul. Would they repay the trouble spent? I have travelled 
much ; have found ever the same sickening routine of self- 
glorious vanity and falsehood over the whole surface of the 
earth. My life is spent in a weary search for that which never 
can be found. 

Thec. The philosopher's stone 1 

Jul. (after a contemptuous silence). Why not ? Your head- 
gear, Countess, is a miracle of art. Your dress is absolutely the 
beau ideal of good taste. 

Thec. (lightly). Really? 

Jul. It is true that in France that ribbon would be worn 
more highly poised 

Thec. Of a truth you are remarkably well versed in the latest 
mode! (With increasing heat). And is it fashionable just now 
in France to be for ever darkly groping for the unattainable 1 Is 
it the mode for the great ones there to be always pale and worn 
and rueful and resigned? Do the flower of its youth trick 
themselves in mystery, as in a tragic robe, welling with noble 
sadness, or burning with disdain 1 If such be the case, receive 
my heartfelt congratulations. You are yourself the very pink of 


Jul. You see, Countess, that intercourse between us is im- 
possible. It is not our fault ; your genius takes too high a flight. 

Thec. {ironically). Really ! your perspicacity is something 

Jul. I may be poor in tact, perhaps ; but I strike always from 
the heart. 

Thec. Shafts winged with pain ! Our great Voltaire says 

Jul. Speak not to me of Monsieur de Voltaire. 

Thec. Presently you will deny merit, even to him ! 

Jul. I admire and appreciate, without loving him. 

Thec. Why? 

Jul. Because we cannot love where we do not esteem. 

Thec. Your aphorism is severe on M. de Voltaire. 

Jul. Voltaire makes my blood curdle in my veins, with his 
arrogant contempt for the opinion of the world. 

Thec. Ah ! the murder 's out ! There 's the terrible cant 
word launched at last. Public opinion ! False echo of a 
thousand idle voices, which an infant's babble or an idiot's cry 
is sufficient to arouse, but which, once roused, naught shall 
still henceforth ! Bow ye neck and knee before this awful 
majesty, whose robes are wrought from shadows, whose brow is 
wreathed in clouds ! Pile up the altars till they seethe and flare 
with wrecked ambitions and with blighted hopes ! Pour forth 
a libation of cherished memories ! — and tell me then, what is 
this deity that you adore ? An empty name — a substanceless 
chimera : worse still, a common courtesan, whose charms are 
purchased with a price. My poor Laroque, who is content to 
skim thro' life wearing the livery of a changeless smile — Baron 
von Erfurt, an adventurer whose head 's as empty as his purse — 
these are the world ! Pale parasites, who sit daily at my board, 
ready to curse or cringe, as suits their mood. The verdict of 
these, and such as they, is " public opinion." You worship and 
I defy it ! 

Jul. Words ! Countess — dangerous words, which burn the 
lips that utter them. Listen to me. As wandering stars may 
meet by chance in the vast firmament on their heavenly pil- 
grimage, so have our lots, one sad, one joyous, crossed for a brief 
instant. To-morrow we shall go our ways, — you on the blossom- 
strewn path of pleasure and indulgence ; I, solitary, ignored, 
derided maybe ; seeking painfully but patiently for truth where- 
with to kindle faith. One day my words may vaguely echo in your 
breast, as might Laroque's latest ode, or Erfurt s tales of love. 

Thec. Count ! 

Jul. Remember or forget, I will tell you what I think. 
Lady, there are wars that must not be waged — battles that may 
not be fought. A woman's pride should never — can never 


resemble the pride of man. You say yon have flung your glove 
full in the monster's face, have scorned and defied the world ; 
but are you sure the potent hand will never be raised to strike 1 
And even granted that it could be so, that all thro' life you 
might be allowed to spurn and gag the mysterious power, none 
the less will your purity have lost its lustre, none the less will 
your robe of whiteness have become dabbled and smirched with 
mire. The terrible unseen one will have wrapped you in his 
hundred arms, will have sullied your brow with the touch of his 
thousand lips, have howled your name aloud with his myriad 
tongues ; and a woman's name must ever be breathed with bated 
breath, lest the snow be defiled with which it should be crowned. 

Thec. (ironically). Why, you are an improvisatore as well as 
a poet, fit almost to join our philosophical court. It is a pity 
such fine words should be lost on sterile ground. 

Jul. (impetuously). Woman ! are you an angel or a fiend? 

Thec. (lightly). Probably neither one nor other, or rather, 
perhaps, both. " More angelic than the angels," as Laroque 
tearfully remarked last night, in an access of admiration due to 
my French cook. For am I not a woman ? But the shock of 
battle too long sustained is wearing to the brain, and, as a 
woman, I have a wholesome dread of wrinkles. Remember you 
are the victim of my sword and spear. We have material for at 
least a week's tournament. 

Jul. I decline the honour of the contest. 

Thec. (clapping her hands). Bravo ! An unconditional sur- 
render ! by all known laws of warfare. Are we Prussians, then, 
to gather laurels upon every field 1 

Jul. Where there is no conflict there can be no defeat. 

Thec. Oh ! How like poor man's petty vanity ! And why, 
pray, do you decline to fence with me ? 

Jul. Because I am about to take my leave. 

Thec. Depart from the castle ? 

Jul. And from Prussia. 

Thec. So suddenly 1 I won't believe it. 

Jul. I go, I say. 

Thec. When? 

Jul. To-morrow. 

Thec. And when did you make this grand resolve ? 

Jul. Now. 

Thec. Be it as you will. But your fervid eloquence has 
degenerated with alarming promptness into monosyllables. Adieu, 
then. But how about your embassy ? 

Jul. It will be in safe hands. 

Thec. A diplomatic answer truly ! The king was right when 
he said 


Jul. (impatiently). Countess, farewell, 

Thec. Do we then meet no more % 

Jul. No. 

Thec. (smiling). Really? 

Jul. What purpose would another meeting serve ? 

Thec. Not even courteous, on my word ! Your solemn 
retreat with bag and baggage looks dreadfully like flight. 
Beware, lest I pursue and it become a rout ! I believe that you 
are afraid. 

Jul. Of whom ? 

Thec. Either of me or of yourself. 

Jul. Lady ; I have watched children crush the butterfly that 
lighted on the window-pane for very wantonness. I have marked 
others idly shattering in play the flower which bloomed upon 
their path. 

Thec. Go on, sir. 

Jul. And then, I have turned from my way to avoid saying, 
"The work of your hands is contemptible and base." 

[Boivs coldly and exit. 

Thec. (after a pause of bewilderment). He scorns me. He ! 
Neither he nor any one. He may learn to hate, but shall never 
dare to scorn. Disdain and insolence from him ! After all, 
what matters it 1 Are there not hundreds here who prize mj' 
lightest favour ? But 'twixt them and he, oh ! what a gulf is 
there ! What is this fiery breath which burns my cheek ? 
Offended vanity ! — no more. If he were indeed never to return. 
(Takes a hand-glass from the table and surveys herself.) But he 
will — he will return ! 

Voltaire (putting in his head through c. curtains). Alone ? 

Thec. Alone! 

Vol. Has he long been gone 1 

Thec. He went but now. 

Vol. And he loves you, of course, already ! 

Thec. (slowly and doubtfully). Aye. He loves me ! 

Vol. Wretched man. 

Thec. (wildly). Nay, say rather, most wretched woman ! 

[Falls on a seat and buries her face on the table. 

Vol. Stand matters thus 1 (Standing over her.) Then 
wretched woman, truly ! I positively almost believe in the 
most absurd of human passions — Love ! But Voltaire may not 
believe. The world would laugh too much ! [Curtain, 



Tableau II. Exterior of Palace of Sans Souci, near Berlin. 
Scene divided. On P. side, illuminated doorway at back, 
leading into ball-room, ivith flight of five or six steps leading up 
to it. Trees with Chinese lanterns, garden chairs, dec. This 
set to occupy two-thirds of the stage. On o.p. side, a pavilion, 
occupying about from first to third grooves, ivith door leading 
to park, and secret door at back masked by a picture. Table 
with candles and a silver dish ; seats. The distinctions of 
colour should be strongly marked. Thus, the shrubbery and 
adjuncts should be cool and green, and the interior of pavilion 
red and warm. Outside the pavilion door, a small flat of cut- 
out scenery at E. angles with pavilion, masking tipper entrance 
on o.p. side. The small flat to represent bushes, ivith a statue 
of Cupid blindfold. Under the statue, practicable marble seat. 
Dance music at intervals behind scenes. 

> — T-* 




/ DOOR. 






Enter Laeoque, reading from a paper. 

" When glorious Mars bestrode his mighty horse, 
And rushed victorious along his starry course, 
Ne'er was his path bestrewn with wreaths so thick 
As those that strew the path of Frederick ! " 

There. That 's a beautiful ending to a first-rate ode. Now no 
one would guess how difficult it is to turn an heroic rhyme to 


Frederick, and yet the man's deeds speak for themselves. There's 
sick, and quick, and lick, — but they can not somehow be made 
to sound heroic. If I could only find the king, and recite these 
verses to him, he 'd name me Court poet at once ; but he 's left 
the ball this hour, and no one knows where he 's gone. If the 
northern Muse were gone too, it might not be so surprising ; but 
there she is in the ball-room, like some triumphant Pallas, holding 
a brilliant court of her own. The cynosure of all eyes, admired 
of all admirers ; more especially since it is known that the king 

Well, it 's natural in her, for is not woman frail 1 (Sits under 

statue.) And yet the situation 's complicated. There 's this 
Count Julian, the Puritan, to whose society she seems so unac- 
countably attached. But who shall blame her 1 She has her 
position to make, like all of us, and is making it. Every satellite 
revolves around this star, while the spotless Princess Olivia sits 
alone. Ah, me ! they may say what they like, but propriety is 
no longer the fashion. Not but what our poor Countess is quite 
proper — oh, quite proper !— but — what 's this 1 A handkerchief 
— lost in the park — near the king's private pavilion. Very sus- 
picious indeed. Just now, in the ante-room, I found on the 
floor, by strange coincidence, this note : — " Frederick : After the 
third dance, I shall expect you in the pavilion near the statue. 
Come." Brief, unsigned, but to the point; and cautious, too. 
Mr. Cupid, you are certainly the presiding deity here. The 
whole place is seething with love-tokens. 

Enter, down steps,, Erfurt and Voltaire. 

Erf. So you never condescend to dance, M. de Voltaire 1 

Vol. No, sir, I leave that to monkeys and popinjays. 

Erf. And yet, if I mistake not, even now, in yonder room, 
there are celebrated men engaged in the innocent enjoyment of a 
quadrille. Invincible generals, statesmen of unknown depth. 

Vol. Earnestly occupied in playing the fool. 

Erf. But, according to the teaching of your own immortal 
works, the age of Pieason will soon dawn on us, and then how 
happy shall we be ! (Very glibly, without full stops.) Equality 
in instruction, equality of institutions, equality in wealth ! All 
men are brothers ; why not, then, inaugurate a universal lan- 
guage 1 The organic perfectability of the vegetable world being 
undisputed, why should Nature be less powerful in the nobler 
existence of thinking man? The destruction of the two most 
active causes of decay, luxurious wealth and abject penury, will 
certainly prolong the general term of life. Medicine shall be 
honoured in the place of war, which is the art of murder. The 
noblest study of the acutest minds shall be devoted to the arrest 
of the causes of disease ; and, as the lower animal bequeaths its 


vigour to its offspring, so man shall transmit his improved 
organization to his sons 

Vol. (holding his ears). Stop ! stop ! in mercy ! He winds 
off the anxious study of long years like a skein upon a reel. 
Have I preached and thought only to be caricatured by parrots, 
who glibly mouth that they cannot comprehend 1 Alas ! alas ! 
what credit to be wise in the midst of a world of fools ! 

Lar. (behind). Philosophy is the fashion just now in the 
intellectual court to which we have the honour to belong. 

Vol. Yes ; young dandies learn to put it on as they don their 
coats, or sprinkle powder in their hair. 

Erf. What would you have, M. de Voltaire 1 ? "We follow 
only in your steps humbly, at a respectful distance. You are 
the head of a new school. My hairdresser said to me, this 
morning, — "Though but a poor fellow, Baron, I believe as little 
as the finest gentleman." And the man was honest. 

Vol. Words, words, young sir. 

Erf. Do you not, then, believe in honesty 1 

Vol. When it suits my purpose, I believe the moon to be made 
of cheese. But what do you here in solitude, M. Laroque, 

" 'Mid leafy groves, beneath the azure vault, 
Sparkling with myriad gems" ? 

Are you, too, weary of railing at the world, or are you hatching 
a new sonnet, as ostriches sit upon their eggs, alone in the wide 
desert 1 It 's a melancholy profession, that doesn't pay. Depend 
on it, none should turn poet who are capable of hewing wood or 
drawing water — more healthy and more lucrative. 

Lar. (rising and coming forward). No. I was meditating on 

Vol. Another dreary occupation — the study of our fellow 
man ! 

Erf. Sacred, or profane 1 

Lar. On contemporary history. See. [Shows handkerchief. 

Vol. A strange book ! the page of finest cambric. 

Lar. Adorned with an embroidered crest. 

Erf. A crest ! I should recognize it, but cannot recall to 
mind I have certainly seen it before, but where 1 

Lar. This kerchief was lost here, close to the pavilion where 
Frederick is said to meditate and love. 

Erf. They say his love 's compounded of politics and sawdust, 
dull pastime for young ladies surfeited with dolls. 

Lar. At any rate, it 's very suspicious ; there 's no denying 

Erf. Stay, I have it. A tiger rampant, supporting a sword. 
The crest of the noble family of Herfland. 


Lar. The family of the Lady Olivia ! 

Erf. And of the Lady Thecla. 

Vol. [aside). Verily the human mind loves a sharp bit of 
scandal, as donkeys thistles ! 

Lar. Which can it be 1 

Erf. Is there room for doubt? If the good name of the 
Princess Olivia is not in itself enough, enter yonder, where the 
crowd that salutes the rising sun will show clearly which it is. 

Lar. If it were indeed she ! 

Erf. You 've come upon a precious talisman, for by the help 
of this artless scrap of white fabric we might strike upon the 
trace of a whole romance. 

Lar. One moment, Baron, one moment. That talisman has 
been taken from me who found it, to whom it appertains by 
right, and I solemnly reclaim it. Give it me. 

Vol. So do vultures rend their plumes over a feast of garbage. 
I 'm prepared to swear in favour of the virtuous sister, but it'sno 
affair of mine. 

Erf. (laughing). What — ambitious, M. Laroque ? Would you 
change this dainty token 'gainst a place 1 

Lar. Why not? Many a fortune has risen upon a more 
slender basis. 

Erf. Oh ! most unselfish poet, whose eyes can turn from 
Parnassus down to common earth ! Take it, it's yours. And 
may it bring you happiness. Here comes Prince Novgorod, 
mirror of ancient aristocracy. 

Vol. Then I '11 decamp. His wife's odour of sanctity hangs 
round him too. ' Pah ! [Exit r.u.e. 

Novgorod comes down steps. 

Lar. The very occasion — his influence ! You must intro- 
duce me. 

Nov. Well met, Baron. I am forced to come out and breathe 
the air, so disgusted am I and overwhelmed by all I see and 

Erf. Indeed, Prince ! This is bad news. Does the Prussian 
Court not please you ? 

Nov. I verily know not on what world I stand. Have I been 
sleeping for a thousand years? After a lengthened sojourn in 
the Courts of Europe, I, two years since, as it seems to me, 
retired with my bride to my estates upon the Volga. And now 
that I take up once more my old career, what do I find ? Surely 
my eyes and ears deceive me. A king, who receives me, ambas- 
sador — me, Prince of Novgorod, in boots and spurs. A Court 
where one risks at every turn to find oneself elbowed familiarly 
by some low writing fellow with probably no shirt beneath his 


coat, whose snuff is fuller's- earth, and who at one time would 
have been honoured by admittance to the kitchen. I find every 
sacred law of etiquette held up to ridicule, every antique privilege 
forgot. While to crown all, behold a French Envoy on a secret 
mission, who thereby is placed on the same rank with me, and 
who has absolutely no ancestors, not the smallest twig of a family 
tree ! A sort of scribbler, who gabbles an incomprehensible 
jargon, while his fingers are thick begrimed with ink. 

Erf. But who happens to be called Voltaire. 

Nov. A name quite unknown, as I 've been informed. 

Erf. Pardon me, Prince, too well known, some say ; though 
here we acknowledge in him a master born to transform the 

Nov. What does it all mean 1 The earth slides from beneath 
my feet, and my head goes round. Is he an ambassador who 
amuses himself by playing the philosopher 1 

Vol. (ivho is crossing and going up steps on way to hall-room, 
but who stopped on hearing his name). No, your Highness ; only 
a philosopher who spends his spare time in playing the ambas- 
sador. Your humble servant. [Exit into Palace. 

Nov. What means that mocking smile of his? I almost 
believe he dares to laugh at me ! 

Lar. Present me to the Prince. I have important things to 
say to him. 

Erf. Allow me, Prince. Count Adam de Laroque-Tournai. 

Nov. A very ancient French family, though poor. It pleases 
me to touch your hand. 

Lar. Prince, you are too good. 

Erf. A distinguished literary character. 

Nov. What, he too ! In my young days, a man of gentle 
birth would rather die of starvation than join a company of 
merry-audrews. But times are sadly changed. 

Erf. You have something urgent, you say, for His Highness's 
ear? Then I will go and bask in the new sun's rays awhile. 
My lord, I take my leave. [Exit up steps. 

Nov. You have something you would communicate to me, sir 1 

Lar. I have desired the honour of knowing your highness, 
because I flatter myself I may, perhaps, be of some poor use 
to you. Moreover, the veneration that I have for the name of 
Novgorod, whose origin looms dimly through the night of 

Nov. Yes, yes ; I am aware of my illustrious descent. Pro- 

Lar. Prince. Are you certain we 're not overheard ? I have 
a painful fact to reveal to you, which, once divulged to vulgar 
ears, might compromise your noble name in the face of Europe, 


whose eyes are ever fixed with reverence on you. In these 
degenerate days, when the sad duty falls to us of keeping ward 
over our privileges assailed, we must be united, and help each 
other in order to be strong. 

Nov. The speech of a true gentleman. 

Lar. I hope so. {Mysteriously.) Ahem ! Restore this ker- 
chief to whom it belongs. Lost here, by the King's door. Look 
at the crest. 

Nov. (stamping his foot). Thecla ! Will you always shower 
shame upon us ! What does not your folly cost me ! Poor 
Olivia ! how sweetly different art thou from thy madcap 
sister ! But, excuse me, sir. This secret affects the honour of 
a noble house. 

Lar. A secret known to none, and buried. 

Nov. Count of Laroque Tournai, we bestow on you our 

Lar. Thanks, prince. You honour me too highly. But, see ; 
here the lady comes. 

Nov. Ah ! the sooner the better. 

(Enter Thecla and Julian down steps.) 

Thec. Let us close our argument in the soft summer air, that 
the breeze may scatter our foolish words. I assure you we shall 
both be gainers. 

Jul. No, Countess ; yours I bind together in a posy, to 
prison in the casket of my heart, that their sweetness may per- 
meate my life. 

Thec. All these are terribly like a courtier's compliments, and 
I hear so many each weary day. 

Nov. {advancing). Countess von Thiirenau. 

Thec. My dear brother-in-law, as I live ! Are you here in 
dutiful attendance on my sister 1 What a model husband, and 
how doubly blessed a wife ! Welcome to the frivolities of Sans 
Souci. Has the amiable atmosphere of corruption, wafted to 
us from beyond the Rhine, succeeded yet in melting the ice- 
bound tracts of your frowning Neva 1 Do tell me, is. every one 
in Russia as coldly virtuous as you? How dull it must be 
there ! Must it not, Count Julian of the sunny South ? 

Nov. Countess — dally not thus idly with serious things. It 
becomes neither your youth nor the wisdom you choose to 
assume. I have a word to say to you in private. 

Thec. In private ! Heaven protect me, what an awful declara- 
tion ! I protest ; I shiver from top to toe ! Gentlemen, will 
you excuse me 1 It shall not be for long. (Julian and Laroque 
retire.) Well, Prince, I listen. 


Nov. Your family springs from an illustrious root, though 
much less old than mine. 

Thec. (drily). Ahem ! Might we not in mercy begin nearer 
home than Charlemagne ] Trespass not on my patience ! Would 
you speak of virtue or of duty 1 Then need you delve no deeper 
than my dead father's name — a revered one which is a never- 
failing charm. Beware how you use it lightly ! 

Nov. Then in his name will I speak now. Your folly, with- 
out limit, is a disgrace to your sister and to me. You have a 
high position, a princely fortune, and an ancient title to sustain 
intact before the world. How do you fulfil your sacred duty ? 

Thec. (first angry, but turns it off with a laugh). Prince ! 
Pshaw ! Too stupendous an exordium for me not to take fright 
at what 's to come. Fie ! A sermon in the midst of a ball ! A 
death's-head disguised in flowers ! And you an ancient 
diplomate ! 

Nov. You have misused your natural advantages — have 
renounced every privilege of your rank. You live like a gypsy 
'mid a herd of mountebanks. Your strange relations with the 
King, though doubtless pure and above reproach 

Thec. Enough ! you trespass on my good-nature. Have you 
aught else to say 1 

Nov. Yes, (mysterious) I have to return this kerchief, lost by 
you there ! It was a grave imprudence, only removed from crime 
in that no one saw it. Thank your guardian angel that you 're 

Thec. This kerchief! Ah! (With emphasis.) Yes, a grave 
imprudence truly, but one which may be repaired, and shall, I 
promise you ! Thanks. 

Nov. Good-night, Countess ! Eeflect upon my words. 

[Exit up steps. 

Lar. (coming down on her other side). That kerchief was found 
by one of your most devoted slaves, who chanced upon this letter 
also. [She reads, and hides it in her bosom. 

Thec. I understand. Your silence, wily courtier, must be 
bought. You seek the nomination of which we spoke a few days 
since. It shall be yours ! You have my word ! 

Lar. Fair muse, the worship of a life ! 

Thec. A truce to protestations ! Go ! 

Lar. Behold me poet-laureate ! The longed-for wreath of bay 
upon my brow ! I '11 seek His Majesty at once ! " When glorious 
Mars bestrode his mighty horse ! " [Exit declaiming. 

Julian comes down. 

Thec. (pensive). Oh, Olivia ! Olivia, sister ! After your 
solemn promise ! 


Jul. Dearest muse, you seem to have become, in very truth, a 
marble statue. So pale, so serious. Nay, now the stone returns 
to life ! You are agitated ! 

Thec. I ! A passing cloud, such as at times o'ershadows all 
our lives. Listen to me, Julian, for I am in a serious mood. 
It is time to throw half confessions to the winds. You say you 
love me. You do love me ! I feel — I know it ! My soul 
whispers the sweet words to me ! I hear it in your silence rather 
than your speech. (Tenderly laying her head on his breast.) And 
I love thee, my Julian ! Wherefore should I hide it ? I love thee. 

Jul. Yes, Thecla. Strange being ! In spite of myself, I 
love ! Reason struggled hard against my passion, but is 
conquered, and has given up the fight. I have fought and 
wrestled with myself in vain. My fate is in your hands, 
enchantress, to be woven as you list for weal or woe. 

Thec. Not so, Julian; our fates are in each other's hands. 
Architects of our own future, it remains for us to build a life of 
joy or sorrow for ourselves. Oh ! may we not cast our happiness 
away. Let us act with prudence, for with ardent souls like ours 
there can be no middle course. It must be heaven or hell ! 
Say, Julian, have you the courage to raise your head and pro- 
claim aloud, This one reputed lost is the lady of my choice 1 Are 
you strong enough never to let the noisome breath of doubt for 
a moment stain the mirror of your faith 1 

Jul. My Thecla 

Thec. (putting her hand on his lips). No, not yet. Twere 

Jul. I will never doubt thee. 

Thec. Alas ! Vows have oft been broken ! 

Jul. Am I then of so little faith? (smiling). Give me that 
rose that it may nestle near my heart, and whisper thy name to 
me in dreams 

Thec. Not now. If you prove true I will give it in token 
that I am yours for ever. And now, take time rather than be 
forsworn. Return to the ball, and listen to the idle things they 
may say there of me. Then reflect deeply ere you finally decide. 
To-night we will meet no more. To-morrow, if you come not to 
the castle 

Jul. I shall have quitted Prussia. 

Thec. You have understood me. (Music within.) The third 
dance ! Go, Count. Leave me. Adieu. 

Jul. Say rather, au revoir. 

Thec. (passionately). Perhaps. [Exit Julian up steps. 

If I should but lean upon a broken reed ! But he is not as 
other men. Yet at the thought my heart stands still ! 

[Dance music, piano, behind scenes, 


Enter Voltaire down steps, who bows to Julian as he passes. 

Vol. Well, my brilliant child, and have I won the bet 1 

Thec. (passionately). Voltaire, what have you done 1 I love 
that man ! 

Vol. Then you shall lend your valuable experience and help 
to write the comedy. 

Thec. Best wait to see the end. Hush ! Some one comes ! 

Vol. A mysterious lady, veiled ! Oh, shade of virtue, I 
thought as much ! 

Thec. Come, Voltaire — come away with me. 

[They retire in shadow of statue. 

Enter Olivia, veiled, by first entrance l. 

Oliv. The alley is deserted, though I thought I heard voices. 
I can no longer bear this withering suspense, but will see and 
speak with him, come what may. I spied the key on entering, 
and took it from the lock. (Turning in terror) Ah ! No one — 
only the wind among the leaves. Now is my time. 

[Enters pavilion, and closes door rapidly ; as she does so, 
Erfurt appears at top of steps, makes a gesture of 
surprise, and departs. 
Vol. Oh, Goddess of Propriety ! I sniff the virtuous presence 
of the Princess Olivia ! 

Thec. Alas, Voltaire ! I pray you, silence. Come with me. 

[Exeunt R.U.E. 
Oliv. (sinks on a seat in pavilion). Heaven ! Is it just that 
I should suffer thus 1 Spite of myself, a mysterious force drags 
me on till I totter over a precipice. A mystic chain of iron 
binds me hand and foot, and a will other than my own forces 
my presence here. I will see his face once more, will tell him 
how I really loved him, that I am not the vile creature that he 
thinks, and then will return my weary way, consoled. Oh, 
Frederick, Frederick ! do I not love thee still ? 

[Buries her face in her hands. 

Enter, down steps, Erfurt and Laroque. 

Erf. Yes, yes. I tell you the pavilion 's inhabited. Now to 
un-nest this timid dove. With my own eyes I saw her go in. 

Lar. Who? 

Erf. A lady, unless it can be an angel, though if it be she 
must be a slightly fallen one. No, an angel having wings 
would have preferred the chimney. Very decidedly a mortal 

Oliv. How late he is. The precious moments fly. What if 
he were not to come ? What if my absence from the ball were 


to be remarked? But, no. All think me closeted with the 
Queen Mother. 

Erf. The Princess Olivia ! My good friend, you 're dazed. 
The idea's preposterous. If I saw it with my eyes I'd not 
believe it. 'Tis against the preaching of our new philosophy. 

Lar. But I tell you I met and bowed to her sister in the cor- 
ridor not two minutes since. 

Oliv. (in the pavilion, walking up and down feverishly). He 
comes not ! he comes not ! If he could measure my anguish, 
if he could know with what anxiety I wait, he would be more 

Lar. Are you certain this is the only door 1 

Erf. Most certain. 

Lar. And she must pass this portal ? 

Erf. Undoubtedly, and we shall see her. 

Lar. Supposing she were masked 1 

Erf. As a captain of His Majesty's body-guard, I have a right 
to know who wanders furtively at night within the royal 

Lar. But the King 

Erf. Is engaged elsewhere. Besides, who knows better than 
he that a good soldier blindly obeys his orders ? 

Enter Voltaire, 

Vol. Gentlemen, gentlemen ! In a pensive frame to-night, 
sighing at the yellow moon 1 Are you in love, or do you plot 
treason against our good Frederick 1 I should have thought 
the magnums of claret in the supper-room much more in your 

Erf. Ah, great master ! Your advent is well timed. We are 
ready to prove to you 

Vol. That man is the least rational of all the animals 1 I 
learnt that ere you were born. Don't waste your time teaching 
me old saws. The claret will repay you better. 

Lar. (to Erfurt). Let us withdraw a little and watch, for 
fear of frightening our bird. Are you with us, M. de Vol- 
taire ? [Music behind ceases. 

Vol. Thank you, no. When a performance is more than 
usually ridiculous, I prefer a warm seat among the audience to a 
cold caught among the actors. 

Lar. Let us go, then. [Exeunt, third grooves, l. 

Vol. (taking snuff). Thecla prays me to lure these men away. 
Shall I, for her sake, act contrary to well-worn principles, and 
lend a helping hand 1 JSTo. It 's a bad precedent. Let the 
imbroglio unravel itself, and sham virtue pilot its vessel to a 
haven if it can. [Exit up steps. 


Oliv. (turning to doo?-). I thought I heard a key grinding in 
a lock. It is not here. (Tunis and sees Frederick, who comes 
through the picture.) Frederick! 

Fred, (coldly). Yea, princess, 'tis I, in answer to your sum- 
mons. I fear I 've made you wait, not willingly, I beg you to 
believe ; but the King has a thousand cares : an important 
review to organize for to-morrow, a council to be held with 
generals, envoys from abroad to hear and answer. Pardon me, 
princess, technical details can scarcely interest you. You asked 
for a secret interview. You have it. Speak. 

Oliv. His frozen speech chills my words upon my lips. 

[Sinks on her knees. 

Fred. Well. You seem to have that to speak which finds 
difficulty in utterance. Is it not singular 1 Were a stranger to 
see us thus — you flushed, confused, with lowered eyes ; I, calm 
and smiling — he might be led to think that he saw a fair 
criminal on bended knee before a benign judge, did he not 
know, which he could not fail to learn, that the Princess of 
Novgorod was never criminal, and that Frederick the Second 
never forgives. 

Oliv. Sire, cease this leaden comedy. 

Fred. Princess ! When Frederick deigns to appear in comedy, 
it is on the wide stage which is called the world. Speak on, we 
wait your pleasure. 

Oliv. The Empress of Russia sent my husband here as am- 
bassador ; I could not do less than follow him. 

Fred. Why excuse yourself? We are duly thankful to Eliza- 
beth ; for a beautiful ambassadress is more to our taste than a 
wooden ambassador with a whalebone spine. Unless our me- 
mory fail us, you were here, unmarried, some few years back. 
Then can you tell our cousin of Russia that the ill-used Hereditary 
Prince has vanished beneath the king's diadem, and that Frederick 
the Second is altogether another man. 

Oliv. Has Frederick, then, forgotten all 1 

Fred. Who studies and dissects the passions, learns to laugh 
at them. 

Oliv. Then it will be easier for me to speak ; for I am 
impelled to speak, sire, of a hapless lady, who loved the Crown 
Prince with a deep and fervent love. 

Fred. Indeed ! And what, in Heaven's name, would this lady 
of the King ? 

Oliv. She fears lest the King should have been deceived con- 
cerning her ; lest he should see her actions through a dis- 
coloured light. There were strong motives for her line of 
conduct, of which the King may yet be ignorant. She would 
implore the King to bury reverently his memory of her, and 


then (sobbing) with tender hand to strew her grave with the 
immortal blossoms of regret. 

Fred. She would have the King forget her 1 Re- assure the 
lady for me. Tell her the King not only forgets, but even 
adds the most complete indifference, although that lady's selfish- 
ness darkened and blighted his youth. Have you no more 
to add 1 

Oliv. (in a suffocated voice). No more. 

[She rises from her knees. 

Feed. Then our interview is at an end. You may go. 

[She totters to the door. 
By-the-bye, in the grove, without, a few hair-brained young men, 
distraught with idleness, are waiting, who have vowed to see the 
face of the lady who entered here. 'Tis but a silly jest, but, of 
course, the reputation of the Princess Olivia will silence all 

Oliv. Oh, sire, this is horrible ! Betrayed by you ! But 
there is another door. 

[Ritshes to the picture. Frederick interposes. 

Feed, [coldly). That entrance is reserved for the persons who 
are dear to His Majesty. You, princess, are not one of those. 

Oliv. Sire, sire ! As you are great, have mercy on me, 
forget the past. I am but a feeble woman, and your revenge 
would not hunt down so weak a quarry? Poor in all that 
makes life beautiful, I 've naught to live for but the world's 
respect, which is as air and light to me. To please the insatiate 
world, I have torn, one by one, the fibres of my heart, till it has 
grown a withered thing. Mercy ! mercy, sire ! 

Fred. When our past, of which you spoke just now, lies 
mouldering in a common heap of ashes, then will the King of 
Prussia reply to the Princess of Novgorod. 

[He takes letters from a casket, burns one by one, leaving 
ashes in a silver dish. 

Oliv. Alas, alas ! My letters ! All is indeed over now. 

[Sinks on chair, and buries her face in hands. 

Enter Voltaire, down steps in park, with a letter. 

Vol. Here, in due form, is my recall to France. The King 
has, it seems, forgiven Mahomet, and languishes for my return ; 
or is it that he has a snug little apartment in the Bastile await- 
ing me 1 I shall, indeed, be glad to go, as this spectacle is really 
too insipid. "With all their trumpet-blowing and banging of 
drums, everything is hollow and below contempt. Their virtue 
is veneer, their philosophy an echo. They are true to themselves 
only in all-pervading greed and malice. Our age of reason must 
commence elsewhere. Ah, Count Julian. 


{Enter Julian, r.u.e.) 

Jul. It must be here ; near the statue, by the door of the 
pavilion. 'Tis well. Here I am to meet this Baron Erfurt, 
whose pedantic ways are so insufferable. 

Vol. I smell a rat. They 've sent him here to find Oh, 

how base is man ! I 've half a mind to spoil this silly trick. 
The discomfiture of the mischief-makers will repay me for being 
weak enough to meddle in the troubles of fellow-fools. (Advanc- 
ing). Count Julian ! 

Jul. (turning). Voltaire ! 

Vol. Baron Erfurt gave you rendezvous here for the generous 
purpose of surprising a lady, supposed to be shut up in the 
pavilion. Is it not so ? 

Jul. (angrily). What lady 1 

Vol. The action would be mean enough were she a stranger, 
would it not? But supposing her to be one dear to you, it 
would be 

Jul. More infamous still. 

Vol. I quite agree with you. Then, will you stay here as 
mere tool and accomplice of empty-headed Erfurt's little plots 1 

Jul. (hesitating). I would not so disgrace myself. 

Vol. Ah, that was what I wished to know. Not being a 
woman, I thought there might be some hope of your combating 
your curiosity. 

Jul. You shall see. I await the Baron, to fling my glove in 
his face. 

Vol. Well said. 

Fred. All is over now. 

Oliv. Are you inexorable, Frederick ? 

Fred. No. I have compassion on you. I merely wished you 
to tremble for that which you hold dearest on earth — your lying 
reputation, and showed you how easily it could be overthrown. 
Now I say to you, This worldly respect by which you breathe 
and live ; behold, I give it you as alms ! Beturn to the homage 
and admiration of the world. Beturn unspotted to pursue your 
arid way. The past exists no more. Behind that picture you 
will find a secret stair, leading, by an obscure corridor, to my 
mother's ante- chamber. Go. 

Oliv. Oh, Frederick ! (He boivs coldly. She recedes again.) 
Sire ! [She is going. Frederick moves the picture. Thecla 
in a black cloak, with mask in hand, stands pale in 
Thou ! the °P enin 9- 

Fred. You here, Thecla 1 How 1 

Thec. I tracked your steps. Pardon me, sire, but my sister 
was to be saved. 


Oliv. Saved ! What do you mean 1 

Thec. A lady was seen to enter here. This handkerchief, 
embroidered with the crest of both of us, was picked up near the 
door. They wait without to see one of us two pass. 
Oliv. Oh, Heaven! 

Thec. Therefore one of us two must go out by that door, or 
both are lost. 

Oliv. Oh, I have not strength. I should droop and die. 
Thec. No, you will not die ; for I, who am here, can and will 
save you. Take this mask and domino. At the postern-gate 
a carriage waits, without livery or arms. Yours I sent home 
long since. You are supposed to have returned to your palace. 
Lose not a moment. Your husband has but now left the ball, 
and may suspect if you delay. Go. Fly ! 
Oliv. But you, sister. 

Thec. (with a hitter smile). I ! what have I to lose or gain 1 I 
despise the world. 

Oliv. No, no; I could not suffer this. The fault is mine; be 
mine the punishment. 

[Goes towards door; at this moment, Laroque, Erfurt, 
and a few guests come, laughing, down the steps. 
She hears them, recoils, kisses her sister's hands, and 
saying wildly, " Forgive me, sister, but I dare not 
face them," dashes through the panel, which closes 
after her. 

Fred, (who has watched with crossed arms). I knew it. A 
nature of stone, selfish to the core. 

Thec. (passes her hands over her brow). Poor sister ! rather 
pity her, for she deceives herself. 

Jul. (advancing to Erfurt). Baron Erfurt ; before leaving the 
palace, it is my duty to tell you that a wilful soiler of reputations 
is among the most dastardly of men. You will know where to 
find me. 

Erf. At your service, sir. 

Jul. Adieu and thanks, M. de Voltaire. 

Vol. Begone ; nor look behind. Bemember Lot's wife. 

Thec. (with an effort). Now, sire, I am ready. Give me your 
hand, and open yonder door. Let us go. 

Fred. You are too noble for me to do aught but bow before 
your will. Baise your brow, Countess, that its light may shine 
on them. 

Lar. Hush ! The door moves. Be ready, Baron Erfurt. 

Erf. In the King's name, who goes there 1 

[Julian, who stands at lop of steps, ivith bach to 
audience, turns his head. 


Fred. The King of Prussia and the Countess von Thiirenau. 
Remove your hat, sir, and precede us to the ball-room. 

[Knocks off Erfurt's hat. 
Lar., Erf., and Guests. The King ! 

Fred. Why do you smile, Count of Laroque-Tournai 1 Is it 
some new epigram — another effusion on Bacchus and Ariadne 1 
Your French birth should lead you to remember that prison cells 
are very cooling to over-heated brains. 

Lar. (stammering). I, sire, smile 1 Never was more serious in 
all my life. 

Vol. I declare, if I were not Voltaire, I would like to be 
Frederick the Second. 

[They move towards steps. Thecla is on the Kings left 
arm; therefore, on fawning up steps, she comes face 
to face with Julian, who is c. of stage at top of 
Thec. (starting). He here. The only one in all the world 
whom I would have far from hence ! Oh, Fate, thou art remorse- 
less ! (Drops King's arm.) I pray you, sire, leave me. I am 
ill. I suffocate for want of air, and would be alone. Leave me, 
leave me — all — I pray you go ! 

[She staggers to a chair which is placed for her in c. 
Lar. (officiously). A sudden indisposition ails our muse. Gen- 
tlemen, stand aside, I beg. A fan ! — a pouncet-box for the 
Countess ! 

Fred. Be it so. Remember, Countess von Thiirenau, in case 
of need, that Frederick has but two friends — you and Voltaire. 
(Takes Voltaire's arm.) Come, Voltaire. Gentlemen, follow 

Vol. She, too, 's been playing with fire, and burnt her fingers. 
Hot-headed girl ! 

Lar. (aside to Erfurt). Did you hear him ? That 's plain 
speaking, at all events. 

Erf. (aside to him). A diploma of favourite, signed and 
sealed. (To Julian.) "Well, sir, you regret your heat of a few 
moments since. Have we unbound your eyes 1 

Jul. Who begged light of you 1 Better darkness than the 
pale-green light of deadly fens. 
Erf. Count ! Another insult. 
Jul. I have already said that I await your orders. 
Erf. My friends shall be with you within the hour. 

[All exeunt. Julian is following. 

Thec. (on the chair). Count Julian, stay. Stay, I say. I 

wish it. I stoop to beg of you. Well, Julian ! Blind fortune 

makes us meet once more to-night, though to-morrow only was 

to have cast the die. Perchance the gods are kinder than they 


seem, and would save us hours of suspense. One question. 
One single word as answer. Speak. Are you also blind 1 

Jul. Am I not to believe my eyes 1 

Thec. (rising). Not always, Julian. Circumstances are oft- 
times as lying to the eye as to the ear. He falters. Oh, bitter 
destiny ! His gold is counterfeit. His metal 's no better tem- 
pered than that of other men. 

Jul. You do well to rail, lady. Reproaches sit lightly on 
your lips. 

Thec. Listen to me. Were one to come to me and say, 
" Count Julian, the man you love " — for I do love you — " is a 
coward, a vile wretch, whose name is thick stained with mire ; 
he drags his fouled scutcheon in the dust ; is but a bravo, who 
sells his sword to whoso will buy the notched and rusty blade," 
I should answer, " It is not true ; it is a lie ! " 

Jul. I was prepared to say as much of you ten moments since. 
I believed in you with all my soul. Then that accursed door 
opened, and 

Thec. It was not enough. Were I to see you grovelling — 
ground into the dust— under a foe's point, imploring, for bare 
charity, a little life, — were my eyes to look on you gaming in 
a hell with loaded dice, I should murmur to myself, content in 
spirit, thus was he compelled to act. Such is my love — such 
my faith, patient and long-suffering, without which love is of 
no worth at all ! 

Jul. No. You would not endure coldly, as you profess, if 
you feel as deeply as you pretend to feel. When the Fates point 
with so direct a finger, you could not. but believe. 

Thec. (impatiently). The Fates ! the Fates ! Does your heart 
say nothing 1 

Jul. If my heart spoke after that I 've seen, I 'd tear it from 
my bosom with these hands. 

Thec. A boast worthy of unstable faith. The low brute 
courage of the suicide, no more. 

Jul. Madam ! 

Thec. Yes, low and vile. As low and vile as all this idle 
searching into a woman's secrets. As mean as this banding 
together of self-righteous men to hound her down. Strange it 
should need the hands of so many heroes to flush a woman's 
brow with shame. Truly a noble pastime, worthy of the gods ! 
I knew they were there, the flight of evil birds, but thought 
not to find the eagle couched among them. 

Jul. When you appeared, I had turned to go, too haughty to 
assume a part that lowered me in my own esteem — too proud to 
admit of a suspicion which profaned the lady of my love. You 
are so beautiful, I could not believe that Heaven had writ its 


name upon your face and blurred it from your heart. But I was 
deceived. Better, perchance, that I should know it now, for I 
have unveiled 

Thec. (bitterly). The truth ! Say the word, as you believe it. 
But how know you that you are not victim of a misconception — 
fooled by a false fire, such as leads hinds through bogs to their 
despair 1 

Jul. Explain your conduct, if you can. I only ask to be 

Thec. Count Julian, no ! Bemember our converse on this 
very spot but a few hours past — a time that seems now, alas, so 
long — so long ago ! I said that the love which I demanded must 
be crowned with infinite faith. Since then you have doubted. 
Henceforth you are a stranger to me, and to a stranger I will not 
explain myself. What ! A life of petty jealousies, of small 
quarrels, and puny pardonings 1 Fie ! A life for water-carriers 
and market-wenches, but a life-long disgraceful chain to you and 
me. No, Count Julian ; the book is closed, its clasps clamped- 
to for ever. 

Jul. Your assumed anger, Thecla, deceives me not. The 
farce is well played, but is unworthy of you. The obscure 
lover falls into the shade before a conqueror of kings. How 
poor appears the conquest of one solitary heart when an 
entire people are prepared to worship at your feet ! Frederick's 
greatness needed but a tangible glory mid his host to lead his 
arms from victory to victory. In truth, thrice happy king — 
thrice happy 

Thec. Count, peace ! No more ! You know not what you say ! 

Jul. (fiercely). Do I not] Have I not heard your name 
tossed, like a bubble on the air, in sport, by those who should 
have named you on their knees 1 Have I not seen you pointed 
at with nods and curlings of the lip, like any wanton woman of 
the town 1 For shame ! 

Thec. Count Julian ! 

Jul. Aye, I speak of that I know. You reap the harvest 
which you sowed unwittingly. I told you there were battles a. 
woman durst not wage without a smirching of her innocence. I 
told you that, in the unequal fight, you must inevitably be 
broken and undone. What are you now, who sit on the crazy 
throne of popular caprice? A beauteous lily, plucked from 
fostering earth, deprived of root, and so of life, placed in a 
gilded glass. After an hour's triumph, the flower will blacken 
and decay, spite of the gold that hems it round. Oh, Thecla ! 
are you content that such should be your fate 1 Believe me, 
you 've mistaken the way ; turn back, while yet there 's time. 
Come, rouse thee, Thecla ! You may yet do something with 


your sullied life. Remedy the follies of the past ; blot out the 
errors of inexperienced youth. You said, with truth, "Our 
book is closed ; its clasps are clamped for ever." Farewell ! 
We meet no more ! [Exit. 

[Thecla looks after him, clasps her hands over her eyes, 
then falls on the marble seat under statue. {Music 
as in First Tableau.) 
Thec. Gone ! Gone, with bitter words and burning lip ! 
Another vanished dream ; another illusion lost 1 Alone, poor 
heart ; ever alone ! If he prove faithless, what, then, is true 1 
The smile of Heaven, which warms and gives us life, 's a lie. 
The bursting spring, that heralds forth eternity, is but a mocking 
shade ! This rose, which he begged but now, blooms still, 
despite his lack of faith. [She clasps the feet of the stattie.] Oh, 
Love, Love, Love ! wise were they of old who portrayed thee 
veiled. Thy form embodies the godliness of youth. Thy glo- 
rious feet are wet with dewy daffodils. Thy breath is fragrant 
as morning flowers. But 'neath that rainbow film there lurks a 
skull, from whose sightless orbs darts forth a lurid flame, that 
scorches and devours ! Alone for evermore ! 

[She lays her head upon the statue's feet. N.B. In the 
country, where the statue is, of course, painted on 
the flat, the pedestal must project several inches, to 
allow Thecla to rest head and arms on it, and be 
of a convenient height to allow of a graceful pose 
tvhile sitting in abandonment. 

Enter Voltaire, down steps, without seeing her. 

Vol. I have taken hasty leave of Frederick, who was by no 
means pleased. I 'm sick of embassies — the puppets are too 
easily moved. The only creature I regret to leave is Thecla. 
With the spirit of a will-o'-the-wisp, her heart is wrought in 
gold ; but I much dread it may become tarnished here. It 's no 
affair of mine. I 'm getting a bad habit of meddling in others' 
lives. Since I took up diplomacy, I 've forgotten how to think. 
It 's plain I must make a choice — artist or ambassador. Of the 
two, I much prefer the artist. 

Thec. {raising slightly her head without changing her pose). 
And you do well, Voltaire. 

Vol. Here still, Thecla, at this hour ! So pale and worn ! 
Go in ; the night air is damp. 

Thec. {sitting up). Yes; art is the true life — the spring of 
great emotions, of noble impulses, of generous enthusiasm. I 
have thought it long ; now conviction speaks plainly in my 
breast. {Rises and comes forward.) Art is the faithful friend 
whose placid smile shines on the soul alike in good and evil 


fortune, soothing with tenderness your every grief, gilding with 
poetry your every joy. Art is the real life. 

Vol. (takes smiff). Cant phrases, my child, cant phrases, false 
as sea murmurs in a shell, happily adopted by the world, because 
we poets have shouted them aloud, and it's easier to accept 
others' opinions than form new ones for ourselves. I, who stand 
here, and I ought to know, wrote my best tragedies comfortably 
seated in a soft arm-chair, with a plentiful supply of the best 
rappee, chewing the cud of breakfast while awaiting dinner, my 
wig unruffled by fine poetic frenzy. Depend upon it, the public, 
moved to tears, are far more real poets than we who pump the 
water from their eyes. But never breathe to the simple public 
that great truth, or farewell enthusiasm — an absurd but necessary 
evil — farewell celebrity ; worse still, farewell the ducats that 
chirp in our pockets and help to round our forms. 

Thec. It 's false, Voltaire, and you know it. Yourself live 
ofttimes in another world, are agitated by emotions which tear 
and inspire the soul. Were it not so, the spark would die in 
you, and you would sink dumb to insignificance. With all 
artists — with actors — 'tis the same. I myself saw Garrick in 
London after Hamlet. He was pale. He trembled still, con- 
vulsed with the horrors of his mimic destiny. His aspect terri- 
fied me. I asked him if he needed help. " I am ill," he said. 
" This fever, every night renewed, slowly gnaws away my life. 
What matter ! Though the frail body die, the soul's immortal !" 
From that day, Voltaire, I have longed for the larger life ! I 
have burned to live in the grand joys and sorrows of the great 
ones of the past ! 

Vol. Thecla, you rave. 

Thec. To be lulled into an enchanted world ! To be borne 
far away from this narrow, sordid life ! To commence each 
night a new existence — young, ardent, free ! To burn with love 
and noble wrath, or bow with the heroism of self-sacrifice ! To 
cause other hearts to beat with the whirl of your own passions ! 
To make other eyes to weep with your own tears ! Oh ! Is not 
that to live? [pensively). There, too, might I not find forget- 
fulness ? 

Vol. Is this the haughty beauty, all smiles and triumphs, 
whom silly men choose to dub the favourite ? Child, put this 
mad notion from you. Believe me, bury it at any cost. Garrick 
played upon your faith in him. To be able to tear yourself each 
night with passion you must be cold and calculating, you must 
be disillusioned, or you will die. You, Thecla, most certainly 
would die. 

Thec. And you, who admit death as a possible result, would 
deny the power of art 1 


Vol. Play of muscles — combination of colour — effect of light. 
Delightful, no doubt, but nothing more. Self-willed that you 
are, you think me but a wind-bag. Would you have a proof 1 
CWbillon writes to me from Paris that the great Lemaure, idol 
of the public, the reigning toast, has suddenly abdicated from 
her throne, still young, still steeped to the lips in plaudits. 
What think you of that ? Do people wilfully give up the real 
life? It vexes me much, moreover, personally, as I counted 
specially on her for my ' Semiramis.' 

Thec. Your ' Semiramis '? The tragedy you read to me. Who 
has taken her post ? 

Vol. No one as yet. The inspector of Paris theatres tears 
his wig, buffets the powder in his eyes in vain. The king 
rages, wont attend council, or see a minister. The Pompadour 
is furious. But time passes as I gossip here, and I must start 

Thec. Voltaire, you seek an actress? I offer one — myself. 

[Vol. takes snuff — a pause. 

Vol. Eh ! You ! Poor child, your brain is overwrought. 

Thec. Why so ? As reigning sibyl, I have oft recited here, 
and have drawn tears when I recked not if they smiled or wept. 
Not a word — no arguments — no counsellings. 'T were vain. I 
have thought of all, see all, know all. My will is strong ; I will 
fight and conquer. Voltaire, are you my friend ? 

Vol. Am I — who knows? Some say I'm only a wicked old 
cynic ; how, then, can I believe in friendship ? 

Thec. Old friend, long years have proved you. 

Vol. Now she would wheedle me. Oh ! woman, how artless, 
yet how deep ! 

Thec. Will you propose me ? Yes, or no ? Answer, quick ! 

Vol. Humph ! 

Thec. No time for humphs ! Quick — yes, or no ? 

Vol. And if I refuse ? 

Thec. Then I will propose myself. 

Vol. Pause on the threshold of this mad idea. Accept advice 
not often tendered. You will be unhappy. 

Thec. Not more wretched then than now. 

Vol. Be responsible for yourself then. I wash my hands. 
I will propose you. 

Thec. When do you start ? 

Vol. In an hour. 

Thec. We will go together. 

Vol. Impossible. The silken chains which bind you to the 
world, to your family, to the Court ? 

Thec. Are broken, all ! 

Vol. I could have sworn that nothing could surprise me. I 


was mistaken. You may become a great actress, Thecla ; pro- 
bably you will. But the art you worship will cost you tears of 

Thec. Lend me your tablets. "Write. This day, the 12th of 
June, 1746, Thecla Herfland, Countess of Thiirenau died. 

Vol. {Laughing, and throiuing himself on a seat). Amen ! 
Though I don't understand a word ! 

Thec. Give me the pencil — turn another page. ( Writes. 
Music as in First Tableau to the end.) — "I, at the point of 
death, do hereby will and bequeath my houses and estates, and 
all my wealth, to my dear sister, Olivia, Princess of Novgorod, 
absolutely, with the exception of a legacy of five hundred 
florins yearly to each of my two tirewomen, and a further 
sum of ten thousand florins of gold, which shall be paid, year 
by year, to M. de Voltaire, to be dispensed by him according 
to instructions given by me. Signed this 12th of June, 1746. 
Thecla von Thiirenau." The name I 've borne through good or ill 
report I look on for the last time. A strange feeling, old friend, 
is death in life. 

Vol. But what would you do 1 

Thec. Live to love. 

Vol. I begin to understand. That sum of ten thousand 
florins 1 

Thec. Is to be the annual pension of the greatest actress in 
France. The step is taken from which there 's no return. The 
Countess von Thiirenau is dead ! May her memory yet linger 
for a little while shrined in a few faithful hearts ! See to that 
paper at once, Voltaire. My women are to be trusted ; they will 
arrange the rest. Who could have thought that Julian's words 
would so soon have borne their fruit ! And now, to cast the 
veil of labour over my sullied past. Art shall light my path, a 
goal of lambent flame. Art and love must be the twin chords 
whose music shall give life to my new-born soul. 

Vol. Thecla, I was wrong, and I recant. There does exist a 
mystic power. The sacred light shines forth in you, a prophetic 
promise that you shall be great. 

Thec. Great ! Yes. I shall be great ! I will be great for 
him — and he shall learn to love me truly yet — despite the 

[Curtain. Music as in First Tableau to the drop of 



Tableau III. — Drawing-room, in Palace of Versailles, lit up. 
Doors r. L. and c. Window in fiat. When applause is I 
it is to be audible through the centre door, which is 6 
to lead to the Court Theatre. Card-table R. When scene opens, 
Erfurt and Laroque are playing at chess, seated on two 
chairs which have their backs to each other, with a stool in 
centre which holds chess-board. Erfurt sitting on horseback 
across his chair, elbows resting on its back. Laroque seated 
sideways on his chair, his arms over the back. When they 
abandon their game, they will move back the chairs and stool, 
and place chess-board on a table. 

Lar. (moving a piece). The world is not much larger than 
this chess-board after all, Baron. We are for ever bidding long 
farewells, and parting in tears only to come together unexpectedly 
at the very next turn. A tiny ball set in infinite space. This 
day five years ago we parted abruptly at Berlin, and here we are 
re-united at Versailles. 

Erf. Yes, M. Laroque. Time for the moment is annihilated. 
Here we are quietly playing chess, as we did at Sans Souci five 
years ago. 

Lar. When I was arrested. 

Erf. Consequent on too pungent an epigram on His Most 
Sacred Majesty. I can't help smiling when I think of it. It 
was most laughable. Ha, ha ! 

Lar. I don't agree with you. Pray don't remind me of it, 
Baron. I feel a sort of crawling when I so much as think of 
prison-cells. A bed of stone — rats and spiders without end — 
and mildewed bread to eat ! Ugh ! But I 've profited by the 
lesson, and have never so much as turned the smallest epigram 

Erf. Nor an ode to the back of Venus or the frown of Jove 1 

Lar. Never ! No. Funerals now afford me a chaste emolu- 
ment. They 're more decorous ; besides, dead men don't sign 
orders of arrest. I have taken to serious literature, indite a 
graceful elegy sometimes, compose heart-rending tragedies. More- 
over, you will easily understand that the dignity of my new 


Erf. By-the-bye, I had forgotten to congratulate you. Since 
your rather hurried — ahem ! — pardon me. Since your return to 
your native land you have been named, I think 1 ? 

Lab. Governor of the Royal Theatres, Manager of His 
Majesty's Servants, and Inspector of Ballets. And a very diffi- 
cult post I do assure you it is ! What has Time done for you, 
Baron 1 

Erf. In the humdrum order of things, I have risen to the 
rank of Colonel, and am now attached to the Special Envoy sent 
to patch up a peace between France and Prussia. 

Lar. Excuse me — let us steer clear of politics, an unwise 
pursuit of which by mere spectators leads often to the spiders 
and prison fare. You understand me. Besides, it scarcely suits 
the dignity of my new position 

Erf. I apologize ; check to your king. 

Lar. What think you of our French Court 1 

Erf. Charming ! Such balls ! such merrymakings ! such 
dainty ladies in such gay costumes ! such amorous dallyings ! 
More like a dream than a reality. 

Lar. Only arrived but a few short hours since ; are you 
already launched 1 Young heads ! young hearts ! So burning hot ! 
As Voltaire says, You 'd disappear in steam but for the cold shower 
of sorrow. Come ; what fair ladies do you already know ? 

Erf. Only two as yet. Both delightful, with the added 
pickle of just a little spite. Madame de Pierrefitte and the 
Duchess of Valence. Tell me about them ; who are they 1 

Lar. Young man, I have the honour to repeat that my 
pastime lies in funerals, which afford a delectable addition to my 
income. Now these ladies are very much alive indeed, powerful 
at Court, and therefore dangerous. So I may only discourse to 
you concerning their virtue, which is long since dead and buried. 

Erf. Checkmate. 

Lar. I am beaten. Enough of chess (they rise). I remarked 
to you that our globe is small. You will find many here whom 
you already know. 

Erf. Indeed 1 But it 's according to the teaching of our new 
philosophy. Many of us were born under one star, and our lives 
are compelled to move together in one cycle to the end. 

Lar. As you are a new comer, I will venture on a word of 
advice. The mystic opinions in vogue at Frederick's Court are 
not the fashion here. Under the rosy auspices of the Pompadour 
we sing and dance and feast, and trouble ourselves concerning 
Reason not at all ! 

Erf. Yet Voltaire is here 1 

Lar. Yes, but given over to the drama now, rather than to 
abstruse mysticism. 


Erf. Why the drama 1 

Lar. Because the railer has been taken in the toils. He 
is tied to the triumphal car of our great actress here, and 
by her is softened into quite another man. Yes, you 
will find old friends in plenty. Yesterday was presented at 
Court the new Ambassadress from Russia. Judge of my 
surprise when I beheld that marble paragon, the Princess of 

Erf. She ! Scarce suited to this laughing Court. 

Lar. The Princess Olivia never was more imposing and 
severe. Pale, serious, clad in deepest sable — for she still wears 
mourning for her sister — she dropped among us rather like an 
iceberg than a thunderbolt. King Louis dared not look her in 
the face. The Duke de Richelieu seemed quite modest and 
abashed. Passing by the Pompadour, she flung at her a stony 
glance, which would have sent Medusa mad with jealousy, as 
though to say, " See what a great wall there is betwixt us two ! " 
Recognizing me, her thoughts reverted to her dead sister, and 
she buried her features in her handkerchief. Excellent, tender- 
hearted creature ! 

Erf. Poor, erring Northern Muse ! She always was a thorn 
in the Princess's side. 

Lar. Apropos of Thecla, we have here an actress of remark- 
able talent — the same whose shadow is Voltaire — whose oddity 
is as strange as is her genius. 

Erf. I know ! Mademoiselle Fides.* Her fame has reached 
Berlin ; and I have special orders from Frederick to write to him 
of her. This very night, I 'm told, she 's to declaim. I 'm 
longing to see her. 

Lar. Yes — in the Court Theatre, presently. Prepare yourself 
for a great surprise. Does your philosophy, which tells of people 
born under one star, say anything of those who are cast in the 
same mould? The new genius is the living image of poor 
Countess Thecla, whose sudden death at the ball of Sans Souci 
shocked us so much five years ago. The same voice, the same 
figure, the same bright, animated smile. The first time I saw 
her, I stood with goggle eyes and open mouth, unable to articu- 
late a word, which drew from her rosy lips a peal of laughter. 
Indeed, had we not all assisted at the grand obsequies of the 
late Countess, — on which, by the way, I wrote so excellent an 

Erf. Such coincidences of feature are by no means rare. We 
all know cases of mistaken identity. 

Lar. But this resemblance, I tell you, is prodigious. 

* Better make the actors pronounce it Spanish fashion— Fee- dez, 


Enter Madame de Pierrefitte and Duchess de Valence, 
arm in arm. 

Mad. de P. (threatening bombastically with fan.) What ! do 
you dare to gossip here, oh, recreant scions of a worthy race 1 
To-morrow, at cock-crow, ye shall be broken on the wheel, and 
your ashes scattered by the common executioner. 

Duch. (the same business). You shall be burned alive, by 
express orders of the Pompadour. I 'm not certain you shan't 
first be pilloried. 

Lae. Mercy, ladies, mercy. You crush us to the earth. Of 
what fearful enormity are we innocently guilty 1 

Mad. de P. Of the gravest crime possible at the Court of 
France in the year of grace in which we live. 

Duch. High treason, oh, hardened criminals ! You dare 
quietly to abuse your neighbours here, when the last new wonder 
of the world — -the priceless pearl of the Com6die Francaise — is 
making her triumphant entry into the grand saloon ! Sinners, 
feel ye no remorse 1 

Erf. Mademoiselle Fides has arrived 1 

Lar. We were speaking but now of her. 

Mad. de P. And pray of what other subject could you speak 1 
In the circle of the Pompadour, in the King's private chamber, 
even at Kichelieu's naughty little suppers, in the public street, 
there is but one matter of discourse — all trumpet forth one 
name. It 's sickening. 

Duch. The celebrated actress beguiles generals into forgetting 
war, reverend ministers into cropping short their sermons ; more 
marvellous still, for she has a dreadful will of her own, she 
refuses to act in tragedies of the most colossal excellence. Did 
she not decline to act in a play of yours, dear Madame de Pierre- 

Mad. de P. It matters not, dear Duchess, if she did. 

Lar. And has she not conquered the invincible Julian of 
Toledo, who, because he 's rude, and turns up his eyes, and wears 
black clothes, all the ladies adore ? 

Duch. (tapping him with fan). Hush ! Don't speak of him 
before our dear friend here. She is herself stricken, makes 
mad love to him, follows him like a pet dog, bows meekly 
beneath his sarcasms, and he brushes her from him as though 
she were a fly ! Ha, ha ! 

Erf. What ! is he, too, at Versailles 1 

Mad. de P. Count Julian 1 Yes ; as minister from Spain. 
Do you know him, Baron ? 

Erf. Five years ago, at Berlin, he pinked me with his sword. 

Duch. Oh, how delightful ! A duel about a woman. 


Erf. Who was not worth the blood we spilt. He 's a strange 
man who strives to carry poetry into the realities of life, instead 
of studying philosophy. 

Mad. de P. At any rate, his manner 's not poetical towards 
the Pompadour ! The Puritan declines even to be presented to 
her — think of that ! 

Duch. Which so piques her woman's vanity, that she 's for 
ever making advances to him underhand. 

Lar. The which he rejects with horror and scorn ! A strange 
man, indeed ! 

Mad. de P. And he 's a poet too. Has written a glorious 
tragedy, called ' Sappho.' I have learnt much of it by heart. 


Lar. Yes, 'Sappho'; in which Mademoiselle Fides is so 

Mad. de P. Great, indeed ! For my part, I can't see the 
woman's talent whieh drives you men so crazy. 

Erf. But who is this woman ? Whence does she come ? 
Fides is not a name. 

Mad. de P. No. She 's a mystery, and therefore the more 
enchanting. Her name, I 'm told, means faith. She 's said to be 
daughter of a gipsy — sister to a galley-slave — at all events, 
something of very ignoble birth. 

Duch. And, let 's whisper, her house is said to be a Maho- 
met's paradise ; the very centre and summit of all that 's rare 
and elegant and deliciously sinful in all gay Paris. 

Mad. de P. Oh, the goings-on in that divine retreat ! It 's 
murmured that she plays Aspasia there to at least a dozen 
Alcibiades' ! 

Duch. I vow it makes me blush! It's certain that her 
fortune is immense — how acquired 1 

MaTdeP. } M! ^w acquired? 

[Both nod in unison and hide faces behind fans. 

Lar. The dignity of my position forbids my listening to such 
scandal. Moreover, I must visit the stage, and see that all 's 
prepared. Ladies, I take my leave. [Exit. 

Mad. de P. That dear Laroque. He, at least, ought to be 
devoted to her. She feathers his nest for him with gold. He 
had the honour of bringing her out. 

Duch. No. She owes all to her worshipper, Voltaire, who 
prepared her triumph in Semiramis. But here he comes. 

Enter Voltaire. 

Mad. de P. Well, you bad old man. We were just saying 
wicked things of you. 


Vol. (hissing her hand). So I should have thought, fair lady. 
I only think wicked things of you. 

Dutch, (laughing). Well said, Voltaire ! 'Twere wiser, dear 
Madame, not to array your arms against so formidable an enemy. 

Mad. de P. (hazightily). I am not afraid of him. Love will 
leave him very little time for war. 

Vol. Keep your mosquito stings for others, ladies. They 
harm me not. I marvel, really, that grand and noble dames like 
you should waste so much ribald curiosity on a poor actress, who 
is a daughter to me in my increasing age. It is hard, no doubt, 
for you to pardon her beauty, her spirits, and her genius 

Mad. de P. You say nothing of her spotless name. 

Vol. Because she is, indeed, so pure, that it is, doubtless, 
difficult for you even to comprehend the prodigy. 

Enter Laroque, hurriedly. 

Lar. Ladies, for pity's sake, lend me a smelling-bottle — a 

Mad. de P. Good gracious! what's the matter? You seem 
quite overcome. 

Lar. Mademoiselle Fides has fainted. 

Duch. Is that all 1 The gipsies have come to take her away. 

Mad. de P. The galley-slave brother has probably appeared. 
Really, these repeated tumblings about of hers are simply 

Vol. Fainted ! and yet she was well but now. Tell us more, 

Lar. As you know, in a moment of caprice she had donned 
the habit of a fortune-teller, and was moving about the grand 
saloon, prophesying good or evil to those around, when suddenly 
she came to the Princess of Novgorod. Startled by her mourn- 
ing or her stony presence, she turned deadly pale, staggered, and 
would have fallen had I not placed her in a chair. All gave 
what help they could, but she 's now in strong hysterics. 

Vol. How rash ! how rash ! — would she betray herself 1 

[Exit, hastily. 

Mad. de P. I wonder she can't invent something newer than 
these fainting fits. 

Lar. (seeing wine, glasses, &c, on table at side). Ah ! here 's 
water. [Exit ivith glass. 

Mad. de P. But there's always something touching in 
feeble health, dear Duchess. Let us leave off rouge, and paint 
ourselves black under the eyes. Would it be becoming ? 

Vol. (enters). It's over, and she 's said nothing. 


Eef. Is she subject to these attacks ? 

Vol. Yes ; she 's not strong, is most excitable, and in the 
past has suffered much. 

Duch. Of course, with a gipsy father to beat one till one 
cries ! 

Mad. de P. And a galley-slave brother to slap one black and 
blue ! 

Vol. Bless your kind hearts, sweet ladies. Most painful ! 
For she didn't deserve it. You have no brothers, I think 1 ? 
Sometimes, from the intoxication and triumph of the present, 
her mind wanders back to the disappointments of the past, and 
then she 's no longer mistress of herself. I 've seen her break 
down sometimes whilst acting, as if her strength had left her 

Erf. Which, of course, brings the performance to an un- 
timely close. 

Mad. de P. Oh dear, no. How innocent you are ! Therein 
lies the consummate artfulness. Her friends spread, with long 
faces, the distressing news. Fides has had a fit ! The poor, 
dear, guileless public believes, admires, and melts in pity. 
Second announcement : Fides will endeavour to recite. A 
grateful murmur of applause. Up flies the curtain — the actress 
appears, pale, scarcely able to stand. A general hurrah ! Some 
begin to cry. Tears are catching ; soon the house is white with 
pocket-handkerchiefs. A dead silence as she breathes forth some 
feeble words. Her pallor gives place to a hectic flush ! — febrile 
energy in the public service. Enthusiasm rises to delirium. 
"Out with her horses, and let us drag her home ! " That 's the way 
she made her reputation, the cunning minx. 

Vol. Madame, unsay those false and cruel words. Yet it 's 
what experience of human nature has led me to expect. (To the 
Duchess.) If I were to relate, Duchess, what a power of 
heaven-born inspiration hangs around her lips, — how, tossed on 
the sea of passion, her convulsed fingers tear her tender skin 
under the folds of her Greek robe, — (Duchess laughs. He turns 
to the other), — did I explain to you that, were the whirl of her 
impetuous energy not consumed by the exigencies of her art, she 
must go mad 

Mad. de P. (laughing). Ha, ha ! a little lunacy would make 
it quite complete ! How terribly in earnest, M. de Voltaire ! 

Vol. Do you ladies then believe in nothing 1 

Mad. de P. In nothing (curtsying), and M. de Voltaire has 
been our master. 

Vol. Ladies, this is basest calumny. I must seek safety in 
flight, or I shall end by blushing for myself as well as you ! 



Duch. We 've put him to flight. Fancy a philosopher in love! 
How deliriously new ! 

Erf. The grand saloon is crowded with guests. Will you 
come, ladies? 

Mad. de P. No. The theatre opens later, and the grand 
hall 's insufferably hot. Here are cards and dice. Suppose we 
remain in the cool awhile, and play. What shall it be? Any- 
thing to pass the time. Lansquenet? 

Duch. By all means, Lansquenet. Baron Erfurt, will you join 
us in a game ? 

Erf. With pleasure. (They sit. Madame de Perrefitte 
and Duchess on either side. Erfurt in centre.) Here's fifty 
louis for the pool. Queen of Hearts ! Then it 's for you, 
Duchess, to deal. 

Enter Novgorod, leading in his ivife, pale, in black. 

Nov. Compose yourself, madame, and remember who you are ; 
if not for your own sake, at least for mine. I tell you it was 
a trick of your overheated imagination. 

Oliv. No. I repeat to you that it was her voice, — the voice, 
as well as the features, of my dead sister, Thecla. 

Nov. Nonsense. I warned you beforehand of the extra- 
ordinary likeness existing between the actress and the late 
Countess of Thurenau. 

Oliv. But it was not alone the likeness, though that chilled 
my veins. Her hand was cold, and held mine long in hers. 

Nov. What 's this I hear ? Have we come to this ? Did the 
low player dare contaminate the hand of the Princess of Nov- 
gorod ? And you permitted it ? 

Oliv. I tell you it is either Thecla or her ghost returned to 

Nov. Your brain wanders. Once more, compose yourself, or 
people will be asking the cause of your emotion. Kemember, 
too, that, as happily she 's dead, no one need know that she was 
united to us by ties of blood. Both Voltaire and Laroque have 
promised to be silent. 

Oliv. Yet, husband, admit for an instant that it might be 
she. Could Thecla return to life — 

Nov. I tell you she cannot. Her ashes moulder in the family 
resting-place of Herfland ; a decent monument recites her virtues 
and her early death. In natural course, we inherited from her, 
very right and proper, and so there 's an end. Peace be with 
her soul. 

Oliv. Yet my mind misgives me. 

Nov. Obey my will. Would you wish to share the slur 
upon her name ? Would you desire hers always to be united 


publicly to yours — to mine? Compose yourself, I say, and hold 
your peace. [She boivs her head. 

Oliv. Be it as you will. 

Erf. And he, too, is smitten with the actress. Certainly the 
superb Count Julian is unlucky in his loves. 

Ditch. Did we not hear rumours of something romantic 
long ago between him and your hair -brained Countess of 
Thurenau ? 

Erf. Yes. He grieved deeply for her death, accused himself 
of murder, attired himself in black, and swore to remain faithful 
to her memory. 

Mad. de P. I hate that Countess of Thurenau ! 

Duch. You never saw her, dear. 

Mad. de P. No matter, my love. How exasperating are 
these Spaniards with their romance. Faithful to a shade ! 

Duch. There 's no such powerful rival as the dead. 

Mad. de P. And such a shade ! Absurd ! A sort of cour- 
tesan of high degree decked out with poetry, like gingerbread 
gilded for a fair. 

Nov. (aside to Olivia). You hear them ? 

Erf. Hush. That lady there in black is the Princess of 

Nov. They observe us, Princess ; be calm, and raise your 

Erf. Her sister, but one of a much nobler stamp. 

Duch. Whose sister? 

Erf. Hush ! The Countess* Thecla's. Let us change the 

Mad. de P. I am not obliged to know it. 

Duch. Nor I. And such an odious woman, too ! 

Erf. But, ladies, think of me. 

Mad. de P. You need not see her. Look the other way. 
I should dearly like to wound this overpowering pride. 

Duch. And so should I. (Aloud.) About this said departed 
Lady Thecla, rumour whispered the most marvellous things. 
There were really the most improper stories — quite dreadful- 
such as I could not possibly repeat. 

Mad. de P. Easily led astray, they say, poor thing. But 
then she was half-witted, and should have been shut up. What- 
ever her family were about, I can't think. Perhaps her sister 
was no better than she. 

Duch. There you 're wrong, dear — really too severe. I 'm 
told the sister was a perfect stone, while the Lady Thecla — well, 
was quite the contrary. Hid her vices under a mask of poetry. 
Eveiything 's permitted to genius. Don't you wish you were a 
genius, dear? 



Enter Thecla, masked and dressed as a fortune-teller, on 
LaroquE's arm. 

Thec. {pauses and overhears conversation a short while). She 
listens, impassive and indifferent ! without one word for the 
sister who is gone ! 

Mad. de P. [turning to Novgorod). By-the-bye, Prince, you 
have been ambassador at Berlin. Did you know her 1 

Nov. Who? 

Mad. de P. The Countess of Thiirenau. 

Nov. (confused, looking at Olivia and Laroqtje). Ahem ! 
Certainly not, madame. The Prince of Novgorod knows no 
ladies of questionable reputation. 

Duch. Indeed. Most exemplary. I congratulate you, Prince. 

Thec. (restraining herself no more, and coming impetuously 
forward). Princess of Novgorod, defend your sister's name from 

Mad. de P. (feigning surprise). Her sister ! 

Lar. (uneasily). The dignity of my position forbids that I should 
compromise myself. I smell rats and spiders in the wind ! [Exit. 

Thec. Princess, have you nothing in answer to these bitter 
tongues ? 

Oliv. (surprised, then coldly). I may pity her fate, but I may 
not defend her. 

Thec. 'Tis she who speaks ! 

Duch. Really, Prince — too distress'd, I 'm sure. 

[They rise from card-table. 

Mad. de P. Truly grieved that we — 

Nov. (embarrassed). Ladies, say no more. My opinion of her 
was always the same as yours. One who can drag an ancestral 
title in the dust is worthy of odium and contempt. Thecla von 
Thiirenau was no relation of mine, was no longer the sister of 
my wife ; for we had both denied and cast her oif. Was it not 
so ? — answer, Olivia. 

Oliv. (after a pause, in a broken voice). Yes ! 

Thec. (aside). Oh, degraded souls ! steeped in the slime of 
utter selfishness ! (Aloud.) Did not this lost one at the point 
of death bequeath to you her splendid revenues 1 You did not 
then, I think, deny the ties of blood 1 

Nov. Who are you who, concealed beneath a mask, dare thus 
to speak to me 1 

Thec. (in anger and emotion). Who am 1 1 I — 

Nov. Who? 

Voltaire enters behind, and lays his hand on her arm. 
Vol. Mademoiselle Fides, of the Comedie Franchise. 
Erf. The great actress ! 


Nov. The vile player ! — sprung from some prison spawn. 
Ha ! ha ! I was wrong to be incensed, though it 's strange that such 
creatures are admitted here ! You may, if you will, recite to my 
scullions in the kitchen to-morrow. It will amuse them, and you 
shall be well paid. 

Vol. (aside). My child — patience — have a care. 

Thec. Never fear, old friend. Yes, Prince of Novgorod, I am 
the player, present here by His Majesty's desire. We both are 
players, you and I. But you are always tricked out and painted 
for the boards, whilst I act only at night. The part you play 
is ever the same — false, hypocritical, woven in untruth ; baser 
than prison spawn, in that your god has always been yourself. 

Nov. Were you not a woman, I 'd have you whipped at the 
cart's tail for this — 

Thec. Insolent ! 

Vol. Prince, you forget yourself. 

Nov. Aye, whipped ! In the public market-place, as warning 
to her fellows ! 

[Raises his glove to strike her, Julian enters, comes 
down between them, and takes glove from his hand. 

Nov. Count of Toledo ! 

Thec. {aside, in joy). He ! at last ! 

Duch. This is amusing ; quite an impromptu play. 

Mad. de P. The Puritan Spaniard can warm, it seems, though 
marble to me. This woman's impudence is past belief. 

Nov. I have been publicly insulted by one who is admitted here 
on sufferance. Public shall her punishment be. I '11 see to it. 

Jul. You will do nothing of the kind. 

Nov. And who will prevent me, pray ? 

Jul. I. 

Nov. You ? Make common cause with this low scum ! and 
against me, Prince of Novgorod ? You, a Spanish nobleman ] 

Jul. I know not your cause of quarrel nor wish to be in- 
formed. I perceived a glove raised by a man against a woman, 
an act not worthy of praise even though she be a defenceless 
player ; and as a man I saw my duty and did it, that is all. 

Vol. This fellow almost reconciles me to my kind. 

Nov. Beware, young sir. If you defend, you divide with her 
the insult. 

Jul. As you please. Permit me to return your glove. 

Mad. de P. He warms into life. His cheek is flushed. I 
feel I hate this woman. 

Nov. Our official rank, sir, forbids a scandal. You shall 
answer for this insult before the King. Princess, your hand. 

[They are going out, when Thecla intercepts, and says 
aside to Olivia. 


Thec. Your idol is as insatiable as pitiless. You will 
sacrifice on its altar family and friends. 

Oliv. (starts). Ha ! (Coldly.) Woman, let me pass. 

[Exit Prince and Princess of Novgorod. 

Erf. (to Madame de Pierrefitte). Did you remark ] She 
withered her with a gorgon look. 

Mad. de P. I go to take my seat for the recital, or I shall 
lose favour with the Pompadour, and that means disgrace and 
frowns from His Majesty the King. 

Duch. And I follow your example, though, after this excite- 
ment, she 's sure to have a fit, and I 'm tired of them. Come. 

Mad. de P. Count Julian, are you with us 1 No ! You wish 
your fortune told 1 

Duch. (aside). Count, you are brave. May your quarrel not 
embroil you with His Majesty ; but Russia is powerful, and 
France on the eve of war with Frederick. Believe me, it were 
wise to be well with the King's favourite. Fides is her dearest 
friend. She may arrange it for you. Take my advice. 

Mad. de P. Come, dear Duchess. He loves this upstart. 
She had best not measure blades with me. 

[Exeunt Mad. de P., Duchess, and Erfurt. 

Vol. Is it safe to leave them alone together 1 (Thecla motions 
him away.) Well, well. Have your will. It's no affair of mine. 
I am with you, ladies. [Exit. 

Thec. Count, receive my thanks. You have not defended a 
dishonourable cause. The day may come when I can tell you 
more. And now, farewell ; you have my gratitude. 

[Fausse sortie. 

Jul. Stay ! one instant ! Though you owe me nothing, yet I 
have a favour to beg. Your voice echoes far into the caverns of 
the past, sadly stirring the dry leaves of an imperishable sorrow. 
Eaise for me that mask a moment. I have seen your face at a 
distance on the stage. I know your name. I would look upon 
you, and hear it from your lips. 

Thec. An idle wish. (Takes off mask ;* then, simply,) They 
call me Fides. 

Jul. How passing strange ! The same — yet, no. There is a 
veil of melancholy and deep-ploughed lines of suffering that 
other face, thank God, never wore. No, you are not the same. 

Thec. (gaily, with curtsey). I am a humble fortune-teller ; 
shall I tell you yours, my fine signior 1 

Jul. Whence would you draw your horoscope ? 

Thec. From the past. 

Jul. What know you of the past 1 

* She need not put it on again. 


Thec. Now you ask too much. Trust in the power of an 
ever-watchful spirit, hovering round and spying out your ways. 

Jul. That you say lightly is a truth to me. For five years 
I 've felt that there 's, indeed, a spirit watching over me, whose 
mysterious presence wraps me round. 

Thec. {smiling). We each have a guardian angel. So, at 
least, the poets tell us. 

Jul. For five years I 've sought in vain. But a still voice 
tells me now the spirit's near at hand. 

Thec. (in mock tragic tones). And what gorgeous fretted 
palace-roof covers this intangible existence ? 

Jul. The painted canvas vault of the Com6die Frangaise. 

Thec. A strange lodging ; but angels, they say, can perch any- 
where. And by what name 's your spirit called 1 

Jul. By a sweet name, as mystic as her nature, as harmonious 
as her voice. Her name is Faith ; though why or how she 
works this charm is a mystery to me. Do you know her, lady 1 

Thec. Yes. But, like you, I fail to see how an angel in the 
guise of a poor actress- 1 

Jul. Listen. By a favour which myself I should never have 
had the ambition to seek, — commissioned, too, by a minister who 
loves me not, — I was despatched a short time since on a special 
embassy to Paris. Arrived in France, I found a corrupt Court at 
the feet of a shameless courtesan. Not caring to conceal my 
contempt alike for court and favourite, I hurled my scorn 
at both. Hourly I waited for my passports, supposing I 
should be desired to leave ; instead of which the Pompadour 
wrote to Spain, begging that I might be confirmed as plenipo- 
tentiary to France. Who interests the Pompadour in me in 
spite of my contempt 1 All this was strange. Finally, a few 
days back, I received a card, which bore the words, " Come to 
the Comedie Frangaise," written in characters similar to many 
letters from time to time received — letters which spoke to me 
in accents of help and comfort that seemed to whisper from 
beyond the grave. I have an unknown protectress, a tender 
counsellor, but where 1 I went to the theatre ; you were on the 
stage, playing the character of a high-souled woman misjudged 
through circumstances. 

Thec. Wild phantasy. None of this points to me as your 
mysterious spirit. 

Jul. There, before a thousand eyes that knew it not, took 
place a wondrous prodigy. There was the woman that I loved — - 
whose untimely death has been the gnawing sorrow of my later 
life. No, not glamour. It seemed sober truth. By what magic 
did the tomb yawn before my sight 1 exposing a world long 
vanished and forgot, in the midst of which she moved — she 


who, till too late, I never understood, — who died, perchance, for 
me — whom I loved with a man's despotic love, whom I love yet 
— the more that she was wrested from me. {These broken sentences 
must be spoken very fast.) [Music as in other Tableaux. 

Thec. (in increasing agitation). Thanks, thanks, Heaven ! 
Now I am repaid ! 

Jul. I saw her yet again, purified by the pale corpse-lights of 
the hidden world. From my shadowed comer I hung upon your 
every movement, drank in your every smile. You brought back 
the past to me in a hallowed present of diminished grief. In 
you the irrevocable exists no more, for the relentless grave gives 
up its dead. Fides ! see me kneel and bow myself in the dread 
presence of a hope renewed. [Music. 

Thec. (aside.) Can he speak truth, who proved so unstable in 
his faith 1 ? (Aloud.) No. Your thoughts but linger round the 
vanished dead, flecking with the sun of your own life that which 
is past and gone. You see in me but the portrait of another. 
No, Count ; the low-born player might believe and hope who is 
but mortal like the rest. Where would the future of the poor 
actress be, if time taught you to see in her nothing but a mask ] 
No ; there are griefs we can bear but once and live. In pity 
pursue me not. Pass on your way — be merciful ! [Music. 

Jul. Then 'tis indeed true 1 Your heart beats wildly as does 
mine ! Your blood flows surging in your veins like mine ! You 
burn with the same fever as devours me ! You love me, Fides ! 
I knew it. Oh, speak the words ! 

Thec. If such could be, I would exact the same deep love 
you gave to her who 's dead. Valued for myself alone I should 
yet be jealous of these memories. Your imagination sees me 
other than I really am. If you in truth so long have mourned, 
best trim the cherished flames and sit by them. [Music. 

Enter Laeoque. 

Lae. Where 's Mademoiselle Fides 1 Quick. As you respect 
my office, delay no more. The symphony 's begun ; the Court 
all expectation. 

Thec. I come. (To Julian.) Destiny has cut our speech. 
Are we to knit it up again ? 

Jul. Yes ! at any cost. Were I to follow you to your home — 

Thec. Enough. You will receive a token from me presently. 
(Mad. de P. appears at back, b. " A token ! Ah ! " and dis- 
appears.) See you interpret it aright. 

Lar. (at door). Mademoiselle Fides ! 

Thec. I come ! Between the acts meet me here again. Then 
— who knows what the angel may ordain 1 I may say to you, 
" Julian, the flower of literature and art in France await me there. 


The King, the Court, cultivated minds from many lands — more, 
the author of the play, Voltaire. I shall be stunned with 
plaudits, overwhelmed with wreaths and garlands. Yet for 
love of you am I prepared to break with all. I will leave 
my brilliant future for your sake. Together we will wander 
into a new world, and commence our lives afresh." Thus may 
I speak. 

Jul. Casting the die of certain happiness. 

Thec. Take heed that you can trust yourself. It may yet be, 
alas ! that for myself you love me not. I bear the form of another 
sanctified to you by death. How know you that my soul speaks 
the same langixage as my face % 

Lar. (at door). They wax impatient. For the love of Heaven, 
mademoiselle ! 

Thec. I come ! I come ! Till then adieu. 

[She withdraws her hand from him, and exit with 

Jul. What is this siren who has spun her web about my 
limbs % Thecla ! she wears thy lineaments ; I seek to trace thy 
soul in her ! Forgive if now thou lookest down on me ! The 
past lies here (hand on breast), and may never be effaced. 

[Exit slowly after Thecla. 
Enter Madame de Pierrefitte at back r., with a fan in 
her hand. 

Mad. de P. Gone ! And he who vaunts so high his purity 
falls conquered by this Dalllah of the boards. Oh, man ! man ! 
So has it ever been in the history of the world. Invincible to 
rude assaults. A bright eye suffused with tears, an ivory shoulder 
cunningly displayed, and you succumb, weighed down with 
chains of imitation gold ! 

Voltaire enters. 

Vol. Heigho ! I am fatigued. It is like bran in the mouth 
to hear people laugh at one's own jokes. Let others feed their 
ears, I '11 e'en recruit my body with sleep. Ah ! The Queen 
Regnant of the college of spite hatching some new mischief, I '11 
be bound. What a pity we can't seize the hive, and plunge it 
fathoms deep beneath the sea ! But then might the age of 
Eeason dawn, and we're not ripe for it. (Aloud.) Alone, 
madame, while the great actress declaims my favourite lines 1 
A poor compliment to both of us.* 

Mad. de P. I am not well, or etiquette would force me to be 

there. Besides, the Pompadour gave me her fan to change, and I 

must do the errand. This, it appears, is a favourite one, adorned 

with strange mottoes and cabalistic signs, too good for common 

* Makes himself comfortable in an armchair. 


use. It should be of value, it 's so very ugly. And so you see 
I 'm forced to play the Abigail. 

Vol. You stoop preparing for a higher rise. I like to find 
prudent brains behind a comely face; for we see so little of 
ladies' faces now-a-days, that worship must hang on what 's con- 
cealed beneath. 

Mad. de P. M. de Voltaire, you are quite another man, or 
are you merely laying traps for us 1 You've ceased telling us 
unpleasant truths. You smile and hold your caustic tongue, 
wearing a quaint festive aspect, like some bear combed and 
bedizened for a show. 

Vol. I admit I'm lost, and wander in a maze. We live in a 
world of idiots, whose inane applause sends cold shudders down 
my back, and of dames more bold and painted than the figure- 
heads of ships. And yet I dare not rail, for I 've met just one 
or two who must have fluttered among us from some better 
sphere, shaking my faith in the scepticism of a life. When you 
lose your anchorage, even to unbelief, you 're tossed and tumbled 
in a sea of troubles. I 'm getting old. 

Mad. de P. You 're in your dotage, and this player girl will 
revenge us on you yet. (He places handkerchief over his face.) 
Aha ! How sweet 'twill be to gibe at you when you gravely 
air a lowborn wife in the alleys of the park, surrounded by 
a crowd of baby cynics, more corkscrew-visaged than you are 

Vol. (under handkerchief). Don't! The picture's harrowing 
in the extreme. 

Mad. de P. (waving her fan over him). Awful retribution for 
him who so long has scourged our poor little sins. 

Vol. The buzzing of insects soothes to slumber ; but your 
babble takes away my breath, and reminds me that I came here 
for rest. 

Mad. de P. While Fides speaks the verses of the great 
Voltaire 1 

Vol. (removing one corner of the handkerchief). It is not lively 
to gaze on one's own plays. (Aside.) Wake me if you have 
anything charitable to say. That will secure me a good sound 

[Replaces handkerchief over face. 

Miter Servant with silver salver, on ivhich is a scrap of paper 
and a faded rose. 
Mad. de P. What 's this 1 " For the Count of Toledo, from 
Mademoiselle Fides," written in her hand. A withered flower, a 
musty love-token. Then they 've known each other long, these 
modest love-birds ! I seem to recognize your face 1 


Serv. Yes, madame. 'Twas thanks to your kindness I obtained 
service in the palace. 

Mad. de P. A withered flower ! Starting, no doubt, a stream 
of pent-up remembrances ! [Aloud.) I remember well. I who 
launched can aid in your career. The actress bade you give 
him this. / bid you carry this instead. (Gives fan and takes 
flower.) Eeturn when he shall enter presently. Fifty louis if 
you do my will. One word, and the hand that raised can cast 
you down. 

Serv. Madame, you shall be obeyed. [Exit. 
Vol. (withdrawing handkerchief). What's that? I was dozing 
off. You spoke. Whose praises were you about to sing 1 
(Applause ivithout.) Aha ! Fides is surpassing herself. Go on. 
Clap your idle palms and bray forth your asinine approval. For 
once you 're in the right. When I produced my finest works, 
and they rose like this at me, I answered them with jeers. But 
for her somehow there 's music in the stamping of their foolish 
feet. I 'm getting contaminated with their mud. Yet interest 
in another is not without its charm. There 's something plea- 
sant You there, madame 1 I retract. I dreamed, and 

dreams run contrary to sober truth. Bravo ! Clap on ! clap on ! 
She deserves it all. As I 'm a living fool I must add my degene- 
rate self to all this folly. Brava ! brava ! See the sheep run 
where the bell-wether bleats. 

[Is running out. Bumps against Duchess and 
Erfurt, who enter. 
Duch. M. de Voltaire ! 

Vol. Pardon. Not my fault. Merely the instinct of the silly 
sheep ! Brava ! [Runs out. 

Erf. He 's demented ! 
Duch. Is the man failing in his intellect 1 
Mad. de P. No matter. More harmless now that she has 
cut his claws. 

Duch. The Baron has seen and thinks her wonderful. 
Mad. de P. Did he weep 1 It 's etiquette to weep at a Court 
Erf. Why so 1 

Mad. de P. Because Fides once drew a tear — one precious 
priceless pearly drop — from the eye of His Most Gracious Majesty; 
and ever since the Court has deemed itself obliged to weep like 
so many Niobes. They 've made of our two theatres two great 
lakes, in which one might plunge and drown oneself. 

Enter Julian. 

Duch. Here 's Count Julian following the mode. See how 
pensive and how sad he looks. His face in mourning, like his 


dress. Have you, too, been weeping, noble Count ? Then there 's 
hope for you. We '11 make a courtier of you yet. 
Mad. de P. The nameless gipsy has bewitched him. 

Enter Servant, with fan on salver. 

Jul. " For the Count of Toledo, from Mademoiselle Fides." 
Give it me. The token she bade me interpret aright. May the 
protecting spirit not desert me. A fan, covered with in- 
scriptions. Strange ! What 's this one which seems expressly 
turned to view. 

" Unless a man can mount he ne'er will rise; 
Timid, he '11 not win smiles from ladies' eyes. 
Better to fall than brook the peasant's lot, 
To live unnoticed and to die forgot." 
A singular enigma — at variance with her speech just now ! 

Duch. A present from Mademoiselle Fides ? You are highly 
honoured, though a fan is hardly an appropriate gift to so valiant 
a gentleman as Count Julian. 

Mad. de P. A fan ! May I admire it ? 

Jul. (abstracted). "Unless a man can mount he ne'er will 
rise." How in Heaven's name can this apply to me 1 

Mad. de P. In all wide France there is but one fan like this, 
presented by His Majesty on her fete-day to the Pompadour. 

Duch. True. It is the same. I recognize it. What can it 
mean 1 ? 

Jul. Ladies, you mistake. This present comes from Made- 
moiselle Fides. 

Mad. de P. And this fan as certainly belongs to the Marquise 
de Pompadour. 

Duch. Who, perhaps, sent it through Mademoiselle Fides for 
sundry private reasons. May it not mean an interview 1 ? O, fie! 
how deceitful is the world. (Laughs behind her fan.) 

Mad. de P. What delicacy it shows in her. A mask cast 
over the germs of an intrigue. (Laughs behind her fan.) 

Jul. What do you mean 1 

Duch. Hush ! You may trust us. We 're very discreet. Ha ! 
ha ! ha ! 

Mad. de P. Let us congratulate you, Count, on your success. 

Duch. And the new star, after all, but plays the confidant. 
Ha, ha ! 

Mad. de P. The great actress descends from her lofty pedestal. 
Ha, ha ! 

Jul. I call upon you to explain the meaning of your words. 

{Applause within. 

Erf. Ah ! Mademoiselle Fidss begins her second scene ! 


Duch. Then let us go. We must not lose a syllable. Tis 
the decree of fashion. 

Mad. de P. Yes. Let us go. Oh, for shame, Count ! How 
dreadfully deep ! Your secret 's safe with us. Come, Baron ; 
lead the way. 

Duch. So all this railing at the favourite was merely bluster. 

Mad. de P. His contempt for our frivolity but idle wind. 

Duch. Oh, fie ! A heaven-born diplomat ! 

[Exeunt arm-in-arm, preceded by Erfurt. 

Jul. What mean these nods and raisings of the brow 1 Fides 
a pander to the Pompadour 1 Not possible. Yet how explain 
the favourite's interest in me 1 Can so much guile lurk 'neath so 
fair a front 1 Why speak of leaving the triumphs of the stage 1 
Could she stoop to toy with my deep grief, whose voice was as 
balm upon my wounds 1 And this fan, with its strange legend. 
Alas ! a likeness in feature, nothing more. Forgive me, Thecla, 
that I profaned thy memory. 

[Sits at card-table, with back to the people on the stage, 
and buries face in hands. He had better leave fan 
on table. 

Lar. {entering). Bravo ! bravissimo ! Nothing could go better. 
The boxes are resplendent with lace and diamonds. Fides out- 
shines herself. Bless her great genius. My prologue was not 
ineffective. His Majesty deigned to smile on me. Inspector of 
Ballets may lead to a yet higher post. 

Enter Officer — to Laroque. Count Julian of Toledo % 

Lar. {drags him to the door). You have not seen her 1 Miser- 
able man, she 's glorious ! You can catch a glimpse through 

Jul. (raising his head). No. The spell is broken — the 
image shattered. What strange delirium, that I should be so 
deceived. Oh, Thecla, pardon me ! [Buries face. 

Off. But I tell you I don't want to see the actress. I have 
business with the Count of Toledo. 

Lar. (pompously). Eh 1 I understand. I don't understand a 
word. Not want to see the greatest actress of the age 1 Go, 
miserable man ! There sits the one you seek. 

Off. {tapping his shoulder). Count Julian of Toledo. From 
the King. 

Jul. My passports ! And an order to quit France instantly ! 
Am I going mad 1 What new mystery 's this 1 

Off. From Her Excellency the Marchioness of Pompadour. 

[Gives paper. 

Jul. (reads). "Count, what are you about? The Prince of 
Novgorod is furious, and tells the King that you or he must go, 


Abrupt dismissal of an envoy means war. With every desire 
to aid you, I knew not what to say when the vast numbers of 
the Russian troops were laid before me. Our armies will start 
shortly for Prussia, and the Czarina would be too powerful an 
ally for Frederick. For the time you must be sacrificed. 
On the first opportunity you shall be recalled. Farewell. 
Antoinette de Pompadour." Mystery on mystery. Why 
this never-ceasing interest, which asks for no return ; and 
yet — the riddle of the fan ! 

" Unless a man can mount he ne'er will rise ; 
Timid, he '11 not win smiles from ladies' eyes." 
Alas, alas ! It 's plain enough. 

Off. A carriage waits without. My orders are to see you to 
the frontier. 

Jul. To go ! without a moment's delay. Surely I trace in 
this the direct finger of Fate. I thank the King ; he saves me 
from myself. One moment, sir, and I will follow you. {Writes 
in note-booh, and tears out page.) M. Laroque ; a favour, ere I 
go. Deliver for me this note to Mademoiselle Fidls. 

[Applause without. 

Lar. Hark ! the curtain 's down. You can yourself speak 
with her. 

Jul. No, no ! a thousand times ! Destiny has willed it other- 
wise. I am ready, sir. [Exit, hurriedly, with Officer. 

(Enter, at opposite door, Madame de Pierrefitte.) 

Mad. de P. Where is the Count 1 Quick ! Banished, through 
this jade's insolence. Oh, she shall repent it bitterly. 

Lar. He went but now. See (runs to window), his carriage 
drives away, surrounded by an armed escort. 

Mad. de P. Gone ! Was he downcast, or did he go in wrath? 

Lar. He left quietly, confiding to me this note for Mademoi- 
selle Fides. 

Mad. de P. For her! Ah ! (places hand on heart) but she 
shall rue this day. (Aloud, recovering herself). A note; yes. 
But he also bade me send her this, which, in his hurry, he forgot. 
A token she will understand. (Gives rose; takes fan from table.) 
Be discreet. Not a word ! [Exit. 

Lar. Not a word ! May I lose my important post if 1 com- 
prehend a syllable ! 

(Enter Thecla.) 

Thec. Not here 1 And yet I saw him leave his place. Oh ! 
I am young again. This is more than Spring ; I feel as though 
I had commenced Eternity ! His words have lightened my over- 
burdened heart. 


Lar. Madame, by Count Julian's bidding I was to give you 

Thec. My token, returned ; and some written lines ! Heaven ! 
a presentiment of evil chills my joy ! 

Lar. (who has been to the centre door, returns. Applause 
without). Madame, the public calls for you. No wonder. You 
really were sublime ! Hark ! they clamour for you, although the 
act has not concluded. Come. 

Thec. Let them wait. I am fatigued — have need of rest. 
Go and announce as much. [Exit Laroque. 

I dare not open it. As from Pandora's box, might not my happi- 
ness take to flight] Courage! (Reads.) "You were right. 
As you said, you wear the form of another, sanctified by death. 
The face is there; the soul bears no resemblance. I remain 
faithful to the memory of her who died for me. There yawns 
a gulf between me and the confidant of Pompadour. Farewell !" 
The confidant of Pompadour ! Mole that thou art! Could'st 
thou not understand that it was for thy sake, that I might watch 
o'er thee 1 Did not thy heart see through this shallow artifice 1 
The poor flower that once thou cravedst, now dead and withered 
is returned to me ! Was it in scorn or ignorance 1 " Faithful to 
the memory of her who died for me." Oh, Julian ! Blind, blind ! 
I am Thecla — Thecla herself alive, who loves thee still ! 

[A pause. Music as in other Tableaux. 

Enter Laroque. 

Lar. Mademoiselle, they are impatient. Listen ! They will 
tear up the seats. 

Thec. Count Julian was here just now. Where did he go 1 
Quick ! Speak ! 

Lar. Count Julian ! Always Count Julian ! He is gone away. 
Listen how the public stamp and shout ! I implore you, come ! 

Thec. Gone ! Where 1 when 1 

Lar. By order of the King— at the instance of the Prince of 
Novgorod. Why, I know not. Oh, those poor seats ! If 
obdurate to me, have pity, at least, on them. 

Thec. Dismissed from Court, and I the innocent cause ] An 
eoy u— war with Spain ! When may we meet again 1 Laroque 
— q ick, run ! 

Lar. Kun ! Yes ; to appease the angry multitude. Your 
waywardness will bring my hairs with sorrow to the grave. 
Though the position 's high, who 'd try to govern theatres ! [Exit. 

Thec. Where has he gone 1 How to find him 1 The Pompa- 
dour has retired to rest. 

[Announcement without, " Make ivay there for the Prin- 
cess of Novgorod." 


My sister ! She stands high in the world's respect. She 

Enter Olivia. 

Madame, one word. 

Oliv. (coldly). What would Mademoiselle Fides with me 1 

Thec. Oh, madame, help me ! The Count of Toledo has been 
dismissed from Court on demand of the Prince, your husband. I 
am the wretched cause. Should there be war with Spain, who 
can tell when he may return 1 I have urgent need to speak 
with him at once. The happiness of two lives hangs upon my 
words. Thank me that you can help, at least, to blot out a 
bitter wrong. 

Oliv. The actress forgets her position and mine. I regret it, 
but I cannot move in this. Count Julian publicly insulted my 
lord, for which it is just that he should suffer. Let me pass. 

Thec. But I tell you that I love this man. Help me to see 
him. I conjure you, by your dead sister's memory. 

Oliv. Nay, the amours of our tinselled queens of tragedy 
can hardly interest the Princess of Novgorod. Let me pass, I 
say, or I call the guard. 

Thec. And can that name not stir your stony heart ! Do 
you owe her nothing, this sister for whom you wear this mockery 
of woe? I have been told that once, in a bitter strait, she 
smilingly laid down her fair fame before the world for you. 
You accepted the life sacrifice. The time has come. Once more 
I charge you to repay the debt. 

Oliv. Woman, you terrify me ! Who are you 1 Are you a 
phantom risen from the tomb 1 

Thec. She gave up more than life for you. In her name I 
demand only that you forego a little pride ! Seek out your 
husband ; down on your knees to him ; beg him, by his love for 
you, to bear this shock upon his vanity. Do this, and you are 
free. The debt is cancelled. 

Oliv. Alas ! he loves me not. I have no influence with him. 
His will is law to me. I bow and I obey. Besides, I could not 
ask this of him. The world would gibe and curl its lips at us. 

Thec. The world ! the world ! Oh, heart of adamant ! You 
near the bottom of the precipice. Bemember the words of one 
who is no more — whose warning returns from the groves of 
eternal sleep : " When you shall stand in the solitude of death, 
your God shall melt away, leaving you alone 'mid the curses of 
your victims. And the first voice raised to denounce and to 
upbraid will be the voice of the idol of your hands ! " 

Oliv. {agitated). Who are you, I say, who dare to use such 
words to me 1 My sister is dead. It is better that she should 
be so. She disgraced her name and lineage- 


Thec. (in violent indignation). As you've a soul to save, 'tis 
false ! [Seizes her arm. 

Oliv. Help, help ! 

Thec. (flings her from her). Be not afraid. You 've nought 
to fear from me. (Bitterly). The Countess Von Thurenau is 
dead ; may her bones rest in peace ! Go on your thorny 
way, and, if not yet too late, think of your sister's pro- 

Oliv. But tell me — 

Thec. (pointing off). Go ! (Remains in an attitude of com- 
mand till Olivia has slunk off, then sinks on a seat and sobs.) 
She 's gone — she 's gone, to glide respected through the hollow- 
world I learned early to despise. Heaven grant our paths may 
never cross again. The player envies not her great estate. 
But time moves on, bearing away my opportunity. My life has 
shrunk into a shrivelled scroll. 

Enter Voltaire. 

Vol. How now, Thecla 1 

Thec. Your hand has helped me when I needed strength; 
you have encouraged me when sinking in despair. Oh ! aid me 
now in my great extremity. 

Vol. Why, child ! Pale and trembling, fresh from the 
glories of your art ; flushed with a triumph well deserved. I 
hoped to find you contented and serene. What 's this 1 A re- 
action of spirits overstrained. Did I not warn you that it would 
cost you tears of blood 1 

Thec. No ; I am well. Well ! I spoke to him. He was here 
just now. Unwittingly he told me that he loved me still, and 
his wandering words spoke very truth. Oh ! Voltaire, the cup 
I 've sought so long was at my lips. When I would have drank, 
lo ! it was dashed from me. Dear friend, there 's treachery in 
this. Fate unaided were not so relentless. My brain reels. I 
feel I shall go mad. 

Vol. Child, child ! What is this amazing mystery of 
love, which sweeps reason headlong from her throne 1 ? One 
by one you break down my patiently raised prejudices of 

Thec. I tell you that not half-an-hour ago he told me that he 
loved me still. 

Vol. Count Julian — 

Thec. Is fled. I must speak with him. There 's agony we 
cannot twice endure and live. One little word and all would be 
set straight. Forgive my wayward speech, old friend, who 've 
counselled me with a deep tenderness my dead father might have 


borne. Sole succour of my solitary life, desert me not in this 
my darkest hour. [She clings to him. 

Vol. This is the fever of a distempered mind. You are ill. 
Your brain has been taxed too much. 

Thec. The precious sand drips pitilessly on. I tell you I 
must speak with him or I shall die. 

Vol. So far gone as this? Well, well, your hand is cold, 
your face on fire. There, he shall be found ; he cannot yet be 
far, and I myself will be your courier. I cannot bring him back, 
but you shall go with me. Oh ! prejudices of a life, that I 
should sink to this — I, the high priest and patriarch of 
Reason ! 

Thec. Thanks, thanks. I knew you 'd not abandon me till I 
flit past all mortal help. (She lays her head on his breast, having 
risen from her seat.) Staun chest, truest friend. 

Vol. And is it I who in my old age would play the benignant 
fairy. Oh, Nemesis ! oh, Goddess of Folly ! What would my 
grave disciples say if they could see me now ? 

Thec. (still head on breast, but now coaxing him). You will 
go at once. Never heed the night. Its breath is soft and warm 
to strengthen man against the buffets of another bitter day. 
There 's no time to be lost. Could I but tell him all I feel, I 
should sink to sleep upon his breast in peace. 

Vol. (in tears). Cease ! Speak not yet of sleep. Death is 
for me, old useless trash that clogs the wheels of time. 
Rocked by the zephyrs of success, all the world has to give 
lies at your feet. Its sunniest rays play in your silken hair. 
There, there ! You could always wind cross old Voltaire 
round your dimpled baby finger. I'll do your errand. I will 
seek him out, and you shall go with me to him. What is 
this ? A tear ! Pooh, the rooms are hot ! Do you not feel 
their overpowering warmth? (This irascibly.) I '11 speak to the 
Pompadour about it. The ventilation is so very bad. 

[Blows his nose violently. 

Enter Laroqtte (applause without). 

Lar. In the name of Heaven, do you not hear ? The act is 
over now, and they insist on seeing you. Just hearken to their 
rage ! They cry and stamp like fiends let loose. Madame, come 
at once, or really there '11 be damage done. 

Thec. What care I for their applause since he is there no 

Lar. (in agony). But I implore for my sake ! They will tear 
up the seats. 

Thec. Leave me in peace. Can you not see how deep my 
suffering is ? 


Lab. Oh, yes ! of course. You are fatigued, and I told them 
so. But think of the public wrath. 

Thec. Am I then a slave ] See ! I break my _ bonds 
(throws off some portion of her head-dress). I reclaim my 
sacred liberty — all that is left to me — a right to pine in solitude 
and die. I act no more ! Away with these foolish trappings, 
which insult my grief (tosses away bracelets, &c). These emblems 
of a false god I spurn henceforth. Art is as empty as all other 
things. An image fair, but as dumb and hollow as all in this 
fickle world. I here renounce it. May it be accursed ! Voltaire, 
I am strong. Let us go at once. 

Lar. What a scandal 's here ! Does the dignity of my posi- 

Enter 2nd Officer, with soldiers. 

Officer. Mademoiselle Fides, chief actress of the Comedie 
Frangaise. For having failed in due respect to King and Court, 
I am to conduct you at once to the prison of Fort L'^veque. 
Follow me. 

Lar. To the common prison ! Our great actress — the glory 
of the artistic world 1 There must be some mistake. 

Vol. To prison — you! (Clasps her in his arms.) Truly fate 
is hard on us. Then you can't go with me. But these old 
bones shall learn to fly and bring you news. 

Thec. (leaning on him). No. The struggle 's past. The cruel 
hand of destiny forbids that he and I should meet again on 
earth. I see it written, and I bow my head. Grieve not for 
me. I have tried to live. Have I not tried, Voltaire 1 A waste 
of time and strength. I have only learned to die. (She clings 
closely to him.) 

Vol. We owe all this to that wind-bag of blatant pride, the 
Prince of Novgorod. 

Enter Madame de Pierrefitte. 

Mad. de P. Not so. You owe this stroke to me. She dared, 
a mere adventuress, forsooth, to measure arms with a high-born 
lady of the Court. I said I 'd grind her to her true level in the 
dust. I 've kept my word. Remove your prisoner ! 

Vol. My faith in human wickedness begins to breathe again. 
Trust one woman to hunt another to death ! [Curtain. 


Tableau IV. — Green Room, Comedie Francaise. 

Pictures on tvalls, busts, clocks ; running obliquely on one side a 
low passage, ivith trap in wall. 

Enter Laroque and Martin. 

Lar. I 'm worn out, bated and fussed past bearing. Though 'tis 
no doubt a grand post, who would willingly be ballet inspector to 
the King ? Talk of crowned heads and thorny pillows, indeed ; 
it is nothing to the never-ending worry of our petty spites and 
jealousies behind the scenes. Now just see how awkwardly I 'nx 
placed. The performance to commence in half-an-hour ; the 
theatre crowded with the flower of our gay capital ; His Majesty 
(Heaven bless him !) will presently be here. And — hush — whisper, 
lest we be overheard — it is possible I may find myself without a 

Mar. What ! No chief actress ! But Mademoiselle Clairon 
came in just now, I saw her pass ; and Madame Dumesnil. 

Lar. Both refuse to play the part because, forsooth, Fides 
made it once her own. Oh, these women, these women ! I' ve 
stormed, begged, supplicated, all in vain. I see that in the end 
I shall be disgraced, hurled from my pedestal, return to black- 
beetles and spiders, perchance ! I shiver at the thought ! Why 
could I not leave theatres alone and be content with funerals ? 
Of course you fail to understand. The case stands thus. Count 
Julian returns to-day to Paris, by express order of the Pompadour, 
though why, — but never mind that ; and, by way of delicate 
compliment to him as poet, she has ordered, that ' Sappho ' shall 
be played to-night. So far so good. But ' Sappho ' was the 
sublimest creation of our poor Fides, and in her absence none of 
her compeers dare undertake the character. Clairon shrugs her 
dimpled shoulders, Dumesnil pouts and turns away. It's as 
much as my place is worth to disobey the favourite ; yet we can't 
give a tragedy with the chief character expunged. Was ever 
luckless man in such a strait ! 

Mar. Serious indeed. What do you propose to do ? 

Lar. If Fides could only be induced — impossible — 1 Well, 
well. In my difficulty I have fallen back upon a debutante — 
chief pupil of the Conservatoire, who was not to have made her 
bow for six months at least. But there's no help for it. A 
Sappho of some kind we must have, and so I told the girl, in 
spite of tears. She is to get through Sappho somehow, and 
Heaven in mercy grant that she may not be hissed ! But you 
bring news of Fides. When may she resume her work ? 


Mar. With rest and care within the year, perhaps — perhaps 

Lar. Dear doctor, what are you saying 1 

Mar. The truth. (Lar. groans.) Her health, which has been 
on the wane, has quite succumbed since that scandal at Versailles. 

Lar. Absurd. She was detained barely through the night. 
Early nest morning the Pompadour ordered her release. 

Mar. True. Yet from that day her faculties have collapsed. 
She sits for hours gazing on vacancy, listless and sad, as though 
stunned by some violent shock. At the least sound she starts 
and trembles. The wear and tear of her profession has proved 
too much for her. 

Lar. Tut, tut ! You exaggerate to show off your skill. Not 
believing the case as bad as you report, I have written, urgently 
requesting her presence here. 

Mar. No use ; she will not come. At any rate I have given 
my opinion ; the responsibility of action rests with you. [Exit. 

Lar. Yes ! Everything falls on me ! Was ever luckless wretch 
so harried and tormented. Ah, M. de Voltaire ! 

Enter Voltaire. 

I 'm at my wits' end. I wish that I was dead. 

Vol. {laughing at him). Oh human nature ! thou maze of 
contradictions ! How many thousands call on death and cling 
to life the closer ! Why bear a burthen we would be tossing on 
the ground 1 Is life so hard 1 Go buy a rope and hang yourself. 

Lar. I tell you I shall be disgraced. 

Vol. Oh sorrow worse than death ! What are your troubles 1 

Lar. Without Fides I am lost. Is there no hope? (Vol- 
taire shakes head.) 

Enter Servant. 

Serv. You are wanted, sir, upon the stage. 

Lar. Yes, yes, I come. Who would be stage manager ! 

Vol. Ha ! ha ! A whimsical world. One-half plays at love, 
while the other devours its neighbours openly ! 

Enter Thecla, pale and weak, who sinks into a chair. 

Vol. You here, Thecla ? Risen but now from a bed of sick- 
ness. How imprudent. 

Thec. I am restless and feverish. Laroque sent for me, I 
know not why, and I have come — (with bitter laugh) — I have 
come to haunt the scenes of former triumphs, although I act no 
more. That has glided into the past — the bitter past ! 


Vol. Always brooding over what may never be recalled ! 
You are still young and beautiful. Believe me, child. Turn 
rather to the future. Sunshine cast on the ocean of the past 
brings water to the eyes. 

Thec. Sunshine. Yes. The sun shines on the grateful earth, 
which springs to infinite life in thankfulness. What have I 
done that the world should be wrapt in gloom for me 1 

Vol. (puts hand on her head). Child, child ! who wert to have 
been the solace of my age. Is not this strange ? I vow thou 
art the more aged of the two, spite of my wrinkled cheeks and 
shrunken limbs. Oh, Thecla, Thecla ! where is the art that was 
to raise you above the world 1 Where is the friend who was to 
soothe your every grief? Keturn to the healing goddess, and 
seek comfort on her breast. 

Thec. (sombre). There is no healing goddess but death ! My 
art ! What has it done for me 1 It has procured me insult 
before the man I love. It has showered tinsel flattery on me 
from those who clap their hands, while they secretly despise me 
as a mountebank. My art ! Another of the many frauds of 
this false world. Your creed of nothingness is the true one, 
Voltaire, though it terrified me once, and chilled my ardent 
youth. (Very sombre). To sleep a dreamless sleep and be 
forgot ! 

Vol. We must have another doctor. Martin's drugs take no 
effect. You are very ill. 

Thec. Then is not this your creed ? 

Vol. (confused). Yes, yes ; but it sounds scarcely fitting on 
the lips of youth. Old Doctor Martin 

Thec. Is like all the rest. He scans the surface ailments of 
the body, nor dreams that the mind may have its fevers — more 
terrible — beyond the reach of mortal pharmacy ! 

Vol. Intermittent fever — of the mind ; for you vary strangely. 
On some days you are almost yourself; on others you do naught 
but call on death. 

Thec. The flame of faith still burns within, lighting with 
flickering spark the darkness of my soul ; and then the waves of 
doubt surge over me, and all is black, without a ray of light. I 
took the drugs that Martin ordered me, rather than pain the 
kind old man, though the medicine which soothes my aching 
heart lies here. 

Vol. Martin says 

Thec. That I am fading slowly away. Not so. I suffer from 
excess of life — repressed, neglected, beaten down. (Draws out 
letter.) See — this is his hand. " Our mysterious communion 
becomes my first necessity. There is a depth of poetic passion in 
your soul which gives me strength to bear. Happy the man 


whom you shall bless with love. May we never meet 1 " (She 
sighs.) Never more ! 

Vol. Then you love him still. 

Thec. Yes. My love is life to me. I cling to it as a ship- 
wrecked mariner clings to the plank which shall bear him to a 

Vol. Frail is the haven, and the waves beat cruelly. "Well, I 
give the riddle up. The day that man was born, logic was mur- 
dered. Perhaps we are both right, or perhaps but a pair of 

Thec. (meditating sombrely). To sleep and be forgot. To 
fight our puny fight, then crumble into dust intangible ! No, 
Voltaire. It were too cruel. 'Tis a false creed. Love shines 
on us from a world beyond the stars, and points to his brother, 
Faith. He teaches that we are immortal through his own im- 
mortality. You, who are blind to Love, can you not discern the 
majesty of Death? As the sun sinks into the sea to rise on 
other climes, so is the journey of the soul into the regions of 
eternity. Woe to the man who knows not Love, for to him shall 
his angel brother veil his face. 

Vol. Meanwhile, this love of which you speak has made a 
wreck of you. Five short years ago, who so gay as the Countess 
Thecla 1 Bright in the glitter of youth and talent, you spurned 
the world which lay prostrate at your feet. Then came the 
shadowy visitant, and you fell bowed and broken, crushed by 
those awful shades. You took refuge in a mimic world, illu- 
mined by the divine halo of art. Keturn to it, Thecla. In the 
splendour of your triumphs you will find, if not peace, at least 

Thec. My art proved as unstable as all here below. I have 
abandoned it for ever. 

Enter Laroque and Martin. 

Lar. What do I hear ? Mademoiselle Fides, if you have any 
mercy, withdraw those words. You have obeyed my summons. 
Thanks. Mademoiselle, have pity on a frantic manager, 
whom everybody unites to drive stark mad. Since you retired 
from the stage, I have not known a moment's peace. The tide 
of mean jealousy and spite, which your genius helped to stem, 
has broken loose, and the place is a Pandemonium. All the 
ladies claim the same part, and will have it, or they won't act at 
all. At one moment they are not on speaking terms, and rehearse 
through the medium of interpreters ; at another, they rave and 
wrangle, and threaten one another's hair and cheeks. Come, 
when will you return to us 1 Name your own conditions. 

Thec. If I wished it, doctor, when could I act again ? 


Mar. In your present state of weakness, through which, with 
care, we hope to bring you safely 

Thec. Well? 

Mar. Just now, violent emotion might prove fatal to you. In 
six months we shall be more fit to judge. 

Thec. You see, Laroque, I could not help you, even if I 
would. But, as I wrote to you, build no hopes on me. I tell 
you, finally, that I shall act no more. 

Lar. Then I shall certainly revisit that prison cell. Ugh ! 

Mar. Now, madame, a word of advice. Lengthened con- 
versation is injurious to you. It is late. Your carriage waits 
below. Let me conduct you home. 

Thec. You are right. My head swims. Dear friend, give 
me your hand. Thanks. I am better now. 

[They place her in chair. 

Vol. Well? 

Mar. (feeling pulse). No cause for alarm ; though her pulse 
beats feebly. 

Enter Erfurt. 

Erf. Good evening, gentlemen. The house is crammed. Are 
you ready to begin 1 [Thecla places hands before her eyes. 

Vol. What ails you 1 

Thec. Nothing. 'Tis over. He brings a breath from the 
outer world, which I once pretended to despise, but now have 
learned to hate. 

Erf. What ! Mademoiselle Fides 1 This is a joyful surprise 
indeed ! Do you act to night 1 

Lar. Alas ! no. (Aside). Mouldy bread and spiders. Ugh ! 

Erf. No 1 Ah, well ! Next week, perhaps 1 No 1 Then the 
week after. The most dreadful rumours have been afloat con- 
cerning you. We have been positively in despair. 

Vol. Has the Court energy for so violent an emotion 1 

Erf. You wrong the Court, which is a heaven on earth. We 
dance and sing, knowing that there 's naught beyond the grave. 
Such balls ! — such picnics in the park ! Madame de Pierre- 

Thec. (rousing her). Aye — what of her 1 

Erf. She's the centre and mainspring of our festivity — a 
very Euphrosyne ! She expressed the deepest sorrow at your 
illness, madame. Indeed, we were told by her that you had 
caught the small-pox in prison and were dying. " I shall never 
forgive myself," she repeated frequently, "if, through my means, 
the stage is robbed of its fairest ornament." 

Vol. Oh, woman, woman ! 

Thec. (grinding teeth). Did she say so — the viper ! 


Enter Servant. 

Serv. This letter has just been left for Mademoiselle 

Thec. A letter ! — give it me. 

Mar. Take it, M. de Voltaire. At present she 's not fit to 

Thec. Give it me, I say. (Rises, and falls bach into seat.) 
From him — I knew it — I felt it here. 

Mar. I cannot authorize this. I declare 

Thec. That I am too weak to read it 1 (Smiling.) How vain 
a thing is the boasted science of man! (Reads.) "I feel that 
I must see you once again. I acted hastily. May I not have 
misread your message 1 Yet, no — the chapter of my life was 
closed five years ago, and to the end I am condemned to wander 
on alone. Though faithful to my vows, yet must I gaze once 
more upon your face, which is to me a vision of the dead. I 
shall be in Paris for a single night on the 7th of October, and 
will attend the theatre in hopes of seeing you. I shall mark the 
genius shining from your eyes, shall wave you a farewell, and 
then we meet upon this earth no more. — Julian." What day 
of the month is this 1 

Lar. The 7th of October. 

Thec. To-night ! What piece is played 1 

Lar. ' Sappho,' by express order of the Pompadour. 

Thec. Sappho — my part — who plays it ? 

Lar. Alas ! one who will certainly be hissed, and who is in 
tears at the prospect in her "dressing-room. 

Thec. Doctor, I have often assured you your science wa3 
vain. I will prove it to you. 

Mar. How? 

Thec. You said that in six months I might possibly return to 
the stage. 

Mar. I repeat it. 

Thec. And I say that you are wrong. I shall act to-night. 

Mar. Impossible ! 

Lar. What ! Can I believe my ears ] 

Thec. Laroque, I must play Sappho to-night. On this one 
condition I return to you. (Aside.) I will crush her with my 
art, and he shall be mine yet. 

Mar. This imprudence may cost your life. My conscience 
bids me prevent 

Thec. Prevent me ! Try ! 

Vol. (to whom she had handed the letter). But can you do it 1 ? 
Will your strength hold out 1 

Thec. I can, because I will. 


Lar. I dance on air. There's not a moment to lose. Go 
and dress. Angel of comfort — spirit of poetry — go, while I 
present myself before the house, and announce the glorious 

Mar. I most solemnly protest 

Thec. See, I am strong ; come with me. 

[Exit with Doctor ; Laroque supports her out, then 
comes down. 

Lar. " On her fair brow Minerva's wisdom sits ; 

Her hair, like Venus' own, is glittering bright." 
But hold ! Take care, Laroque. No more odes : they 're dan- 
gerous. Yet I 'm too gay for elegies. Was there ever such a 
piece of luck 1 The Pompadour will be delighted — the sun of 
royalty will shine on me. But let me fly to announce the sur- 
prise we have in store. [Exit. 

Vol. What courage — what an iron will set in a form how 
frail ! 

Erf. (looking about). And so this is the celebrated green-room 
of the Comedie Frangaise. Art has here a gorgeous temple, 
worthy of the noble priesthood who inhabit it. Portraits of 
artists who live on a strip of canvas, and whose memory shall 
endure for ages when their bodies are dust, and their genius fled 
with their souls into oblivion. A strange thought that, M. de 
Voltaire — that a few inches of flaxen fibre should be more 
enduring than the supreme triumph of creation, the human 

Vol. The world is made up of paradoxes, young man, and this 
is one of them. Tell me more of the doings of the Court. How 
I hate it and its ingratitude ! Would you believe it, they have 
set up Crebillon against me, and swear my tragedies are nothing 
to the soapsuds in his 'Catiline.' Oh, what an evil thing is man ; 
how well that he lives not beyond the grave ! I am half- 
persuaded to withdraw and live a hermit's life, write panegyrics 
on imaginary virtue, and instruct the bucolic mind on human 
vanity. But the Court would gladly see me go, and so I stay. 
The Russian Ambassador gave a ball last night 1 

Erf. Yes, and the Princess of Novgorod was resplendent with 
icy sparkle. His Majesty led her through a dance, and swore 
she froze his fingers to the bone. Such rarefied virtue is too 
intense for our nether world. 

Vol. So will it ever be. The gaudy weed spreads its flaunt- 
ing petals to the air, while the healing herb shrouds its powers 
for good deep down among its leaves. And silly man — how 
blind! — grinds the second under foot, and decks with the first 
the tresses of the fair ! 


Enter Laroque. 

Lar. I 've made the announcement, and never was there such 
enthusiasm. The Pompadour will certainly pay me handsomely 
for this. I've told the girl upstairs, too, of her reprieve, and 
her tears have ceased to flow. All goes as merrily as a chime of 

Erf. Then I go to take my place. Master, good night. (Kisses 
Voltaire's hand.) M. Laroque, I congratulate you. [Exit. 

Enter Servant. 
Serv. The Duke of Orno sends to say he must have a seat at 
any price. 

Lar. There are none left. 

Serv. His grace says that box No. 15 is still unoccupied. 

Lar. It is taken. 

Serv. He would know by whom. 

Lar. By a messenger from the Spanish Embassy. 

[Exit Servant. 
Enter 2nd Servant. 

2nd Serv. M. Diderot and the German Ambassador request 
seats upon the stage. The Court being present, their absence, 
they say, might be remarked. 

Lar. The seats on the stage are taken. As it is, the per- 
formers will scarce have room to move. Good heavens ! Will 
you leave me in peace 1 And now I go to await the arrival of 
His Majesty. 

Fausse sortie — Martin enters, and runs against him. 

Mar. Stay, M. Laroque. Once more I tell you that Made- 
moiselle Fides is not fit to act. She can scarcely stand — her 
memory flickers — she is playing with her life. 

Lar. But she says she is strong and well. 

Mar. There is some secret motive for her strange behaviour. 
Even now, while her tirewomen are busy with their task, her 
head sinks upon her breast, and she starts from lethargy, mur- 
muring through set teeth, "I can, because I will." I return to 
my post, and warn you that I shall endeavour to take her home. 
I shall do my duty — you do yours. [Exit. 

Lar. My duty ! my duty ! It 's very fine talking, but after 
the enthusiasm of just now, I dare not. What am I to do 1 Oh, 
my poor head. M. de Voltaire, why do you say nothing ? Your 
cynical smile will drive me quite distracted. 

Vol. Never fear ; Fides will recite. When she says she will, 
you may safely trust in her. See — here she is. 

[Fides appears as Sappho — they help her down. 


Lar. How do you feel, my dearest friend ? Eest in this chair. 
Would you like something — a glass of water with a little 
cordial in it ? 

Thec. Thanks, no. I am well. Quite well. A blessed calm 
has settled on my breast. 

Vol. Was not my counsel wise — to seek the soothing 
goddess, Art. But do not overtax your strength. The doctor 

Thec. That I was feverish, though I told him my spirit 
was at peace. Poor human science ! Feverish — yes ! What 
actor but burns with fever whilst portraying the immortal woes 
made sacred through the genius of our poets? What is our 
enthusiasm but fever 1 The fever of Art — the fever of creation. 
Do you think that I could rise to the last act of Sappho 
were I not torn by passion — which is fever? Do you 

Lar. We will think anything you please, if you will not 
agitate yourself. You require calm and rest. 

Thec. You are right. See how obedient I am, and in what 
perfect peace ! (Coaxing him.) Come here, Laroque. Sit on 
this stool beside me. Tell me — who is there in the house ? 

Lar. Who ? Two thousand people, at least. 

Thec. (impatient). Yes, yes. That is not what I ask. Who 
is there — of importance ? 

Lar. The whole flower of the Court. The King (Heaven bless 
him !) will presently be here. 

Thec. No, no. I mean not him. 

Lar, Oh ! Among the literary world 

[All this time Voltaire is sitting by, laughing. 

Thec. Well? 

Lar. There 's Crebillon, and Holbach 

Thec. (pettishly). I care not for them. 

Lar. An illustrious stranger arrived last night. He, too, will 
honour us. 

Thec. (joyously). Yes ? His name ? 

Lar. His Majesty's father-in-law — King Stanislas of Poland. 

Thec. (relapsing). What are kings to me ? No one else ? 

Lar. No one. 

Thec. Thank you, Laroque. 

Vol. My child, are you certain of your memory ? Were it 
not prudent to study your part awhile ? 

Enter Servant. 

Serv. Sir, you are wanted on the stage. 

Lar. I come. They never give me a moment's peace. 

[Exit with Servant. 


Vol. Do you know, Thecla, that you have taught me some- 
thing — me, the philosopher? All is so grovelling here below, 
it is well something higher should exist, if only in the 
imagination. Your eyes are bright — you are better already. 
Truly art is the real life, and the red rag fame is not without its 

Thec. I sought fame, never for myself, always for him. I 
will say to him one day — Julian, Thecla and Fides are but one. 
For love of you one died, the other sprang to life. For you 
alone I became famous. Would you have love and sacrifice, 
love's offspring ? See, these garlands of applause, of ad- 
miration, that I gathered but for you. You care not for 
them 1 Behold, I cast them all away — I renounce them every 
one — for you ! 

Vol. Thecla, your hand trembles 

Thec. (sinking). Oh, if he were not to come ! If the only 
strand that binds me yet to life were now to snap and leave me 
anchorless ! 

Vol. But he will come — his letter tells you so. For mercy's 
sake do not torment yourself. He may be there now ; Laroque 
may not have seen him. 

Thec. True, dear friend, always my help in trouble. In the 
passage yonder is an opening, through which you may survey the 

Vol. I understand. 

Thec. (takes his hand). Thanks. I will look over my part — 
give it me. 

" What is this shade that like a phantom sits - 
'Twixt me and light of day 1 
I neither hate nor fear thee, Alceon, 
Nor yet can I love thee." 

Well, Voltaire 1 

Vol. He has not yet come. 

Thec. Not come 1 (Sinks back.) 

Vol. Stay. 

Thec. Is it he ? 

Vol. No ; but there is a box vacant. 

Thec. His, perchance. 

Vol. The door opens. 

Thec. It is he ! 

Vol. The figure stands in shadow — I cannot discern. 

Thec. Oh, look again ! 

Vol. He comes forward — yes, Count Julian of Toledo. 

Thec. prises). At last ! Let my eyes rest on him. Julian, 
my Julian, how sad and worn. Now I can be great. To-night 


I shall excel myself. His Sappho shall speak thrilling word s ^ 
him through me.* 

Vol. Child, you are transfigured. Only speak presently as 
you spoke just now, and you will be sublime. 

Thec. My head swims ; my mind flutters beyond my grasp. 
Hear me through my part, dear friend. My memory must not 
fail me now. 

Vol. Give me the book. Let us begin where you hurl your 
scorn at Alceon. He says — where is it — here, — " Ah, you turn 

Thec. " Not so, Alceon. You quail beneath my steady gaze. 
I place my trust " 

Vol. " In Him 1 " 

Thec. " In my own strength. I have looked falsehood in the 
face. The monster shrunk — spread her foul wings, and fled, 
baffled, out of sight." 

Vol. Brava ! brava ! Come a little forward, when Alceon 
says, " I hate thee, Sappho ! " 

Thec. (coming forivard). " Mine eyes gush forth for thee." 

Vol. " Away with pity. I will none of it." 

Thec. " My hate thou ne'er shalt have, whate'er befall. The 
snake lies crushed beneath my feet. Spite of my wrongs, I 
conquer, and with a smile I pass." 

Vol. Brava ! What a gesture ! — what a look ! Were I the 
author of the tragedy, I could desire no more. Let us 
go on. 

Thec. I dare not. As the scene proceeds, I have need of all 
my strength. My heart and voice must swell with the cadence 
of despair. Mocked and despised before all Greece ! Yet what 
was Greece to her 1 ? Spurned before him in whose affection 
alone she lived, as I live in Julian's. There lay the agony. 
Poor Sappho ! what desperate anguish have I to delineate ! — and 
justly to portray must delve into* my own heart's memories. Let 

me try the first speech. The high priest says What says 


Vol. " Go, fallen priestess, go. Thou art accursed ! 
Wander away, alone, exiled, disgraced, 
Far from the haunts of men." 

Thec. (rising to the situation gradually). 

" Nay ; hallowed by Love, I tower above ye all ! 
Approach if thou darest, Alceon ! 

Advance one step ye cannot — ye are webbed in magic spells ! 
Who from my hands shall wrest the sacred lyre ] 

* These sentences, apparently long, are to bring her down from the back^ 
slowly, to which she had r ashed. 


It is mine. Its mystic chords baptised 
With my soul's tears. Back ! back, I say ! 
Ye shall not tear my treasure from me ! " 

[Soft music of stringed instruments — she plays lyre. 
Through thee, poor harp, my grief finds utterance. 
" With bitter pain my bosom welleth o'er, 
With soothing dew my eyes are bathed no more, 

I bleed and sing. 
Oh, kindly death, upon whose gentle breast 
They who have fall'n in the world's fight may rest, 
{With energy.) Thy comfort bring. 

Mark well the world ! Idol whose scorching smile 
And murderous kiss to chasms dread beguile, 
Behold and see ! 
'Mid blood and smoking holocausts he stands, 
I, too, his victim, slain by cruel hands, 
{With anger.) Oh, pity me ! 

'Neath his destroying car must all bow down, 
Prepared to sacrifice before his frown 

Hope, Faith, and Love 1 
Sisters star-crowned, sent down amid our strife 
To whisper of another, better life 

In Heaven above. 
Who knows not Love, unworthy is to live — 
Through Him I breathe who happiness can give ; 

Or if that I 
Be doomed to perish by celestial fire, 
I, mounting radiant to my glorious pyre, 

Rejoice to die !" 
[She totters, and falls into Voltaire's arms. 

Vol. Thecla, what is this — a deadly pallor spreads upon your 

Thec. {sinking into seat). No, no. It is nothing — I am 
strong. {Murmurs dreamily) " To my glorious pyre — Rejoice 
to die." 

Vol. Her great emotion's killing her. Quick — some one — 
help ! 

Lar. {entering). His Majesty 's arrived. A splendid house ! 
I 've ordered up the curtain. All 's ready to begin. What 's this ] 
Mademoiselle Fides fainted when she should be on the stage 1 
111 luck pursues me. Oh, my distracted brain ! Ah ! Here 's 
the doctor. This is opportune. 


Enter Martin. 

Mar. (kneeling by her — after a pause). As I expected. 

Vol. A passing faintness, doctor, is it not ] 

Mar. She may rally ; yet, in her weakened state 

Vol. You confess, then, that your drugs are vain 1 

Mar. She might with care have been herself after a time ; 
but now 

Vol. Then we '11 try the last desperate remedy. There is a 
medicine which may save her yet. I '11 wear wings upon my 
shrunken heels and fly. Strange that Voltaire should come to 
be love's messenger. \Exit hurriedly. 

Lar. When I announced that Fides was to act, His Majesty 
(Heaven bless him!) deigned graciously to touch my hand. And, 
now, what is to become of me 1 Mademoiselle, for my sake rouse 
yourself. Oh, doctor, if you can revive her I will give you gold. 

Mar. Her life is beyond my healing art. Hope and wait. 

Lar. Try something, I implore you. 

Thec. (reviving). How bright the lamps — how great a crowd ! 
He is there — I see him — my own Julian — I love thee. My 
sister, too, she of the stony heart. Hark ! how they applaud. 
Fides, the great actress, holds them in her thrall. " Hallowed by 
love, I tower above ye all ! Approach if thou darest, Alceon." 
Stay! Do you not see him — there. He rises from his seat — 
glides along the corridor — now he crosses the threshold of the 
stage — advancing ever. The door opens — he is here 

At this moment enter Julian and Voltaire. She falls into 
Julian's arms. 

Jul. Thecla! 

Thec. {laughing hysterically). You hear him. He knows me 
now ! Yes, Julian. For ever thine. A pall drops between me 
and thee. Where art thou 1 

Mar. 'Tis as I thought. We may expect the worst. 

Jul. Thecla! Hearken! 'Tis I who speaks — thy Julian. 
Heaven, she hears me not. Thecla ! 

Thec. What is this 1 Not death 1 Oh, no. Now thou art 
mine once more I feel that life is beautiful. Together we will 
wander far away, mid purling brooks and gently waving trees. 
All fades dimly into night. 'Tis death indeed ; but beyond the 
day breaks where we shall meet again, never to part through 
all eternity. Here is the rose you begged for once — like me, 
faded and withered now. Keep it; for my sake look on it 

Jul. Thecla, my love, art thou then lost to me? 


Thec. Not lost. I shall be with thee still. Love never dies. 
Voltaire, give me thy hand ; trusty friend, farewell ! Where art 
thou, Julian 1 Alas ! I see thee not. With my head pillowed 
on thy breast, tell me, ere I sleep, that thou lov'st me still — 
Despite the World. 

Jul. I love thee — I love thee ; but thou shalt not go. Thou 
saidst we should wander in far-off lands. 

Mar. She 's gone to a far-off land indeed ! 

*£ JDeacH 
Mae. Dead! 





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